Working Yourself to Death?

 In Jessica Thompson, Stress at Work
japanese workers stressed

The BBC has today published an article which shockingly reveals that a Japanese telecoms worker called Naoya Nishigaki literally worked himself to death. The 27 year old sadly passed away with a formal diagnosis of ‘karoshi” which is the Japanese term to describe death attributed to overwork.

I was shocked to read that because so many people (usually young professionals) die due to overwork that the Japanese have an actual word for such type of cause of death.

In Naoya’s cases, he had only been working for his employer for 2 years before he passed away. His Mother reports that he would tell of how he usually worked late and until the last train. Sometimes he would miss the last train and would therefore sleep overnight at his desk.

Naoya’s colleagues describe him as constantly working ‘around the clock’ and, some days, he would work 37 hours straight with no break.

Official figures put cases of karoshi in the hundreds each year. Campaigners say the real figure is much higher.

Nearly a quarter of Japanese companies have employees working more than 80 hours overtime a month, most often unpaid. Some companies have employees breaking the 100 hours a month mark.

The significance of these statistics is alarming as 80 hours overtime a month is regarded as the threshold above which you have an increased chance of dying.

Japan’s government are under increasing pressure to do something but this is difficult as there is a well established culture where it is frowned upon to leave on time and not work a high amount of additional hours.

Campaigners in Japan are seeking the government to place a legal limit on the overtime employees are permitted to work in the hope that this will try to address the problem. Time will tell if such laws will be put in place and what else the government can try to do.

In the meantime, many young workers are dying and the support groups for bereaved families are struggling to cope with the increasing number of new members.

Luckily, in the UK we do not have a problem with workplace stress to the same level as Japan. There is however still much employers over here can do to monitor their employees health and consider ways in which they can assist and provide support where needed.

The importance of an employees’ wellbeing in light of the crisis in Japan should not be underestimated.

If you have had any issues of workplace stress and wish to discuss the matter confidentially with our specialised stress at work team, we offer a free consultation so please feel free to email or call us today.

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Jessica Thompson Head of Stress at Work
Jessica Thompson
Head Of Stress At Work

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