Addictions usually bring problems. And reality shows that being a "workaholic" is not necessarily a good thing, especially if you want to organize an entire company and its employees according to that dependency. Billionaire Elon Musk, Alarmed by the successive production bottlenecks of Tesla, his car company, he decided that he had to meet the manufacturing quota at whatever cost and wanted to set an example until sleeping in the factory.
But work days are limited by law for some reason. The 40 working hours per week set by the Workers 'Statute in Spain, as well as being an old vindication of the workers' movement ("eight hours of work, eight hours of rest and eight hours of instruction"), try to limit the effects they have on health longer hours.
"The duration of the day is within the psychosocial risk factors [los que se originan por la organización del trabajo y generan reacciones fisiológicas]", Explains Sofia Vega, expert of the Unit of Ergonomics and Psychosociology of the National Center of Working Conditions, belonging to the National Institute of Health and Safety at Work (INSST). "And as it is an organizational issue of companies, suggestions to prevent risks are not usually very welcome, "he complains.
According to the national survey on working conditions, carried out by the INSST, working at atypical hours – that is, on weekends, with more than 10 hours, in shifts or at night – affects a significant proportion of Spanish employees : 54% work on Saturdays, 33% on Sundays, 27% work one day more than 10 hours a day, and 22% work at night. 65% of Spaniards can not decide their working hours.
Excessive days have consequences on health, "the most evident is the accumulation of fatigue if there is no adequate rest period between day and day," says Vega. "There is scientific evidence that produces irregular sleep patterns, increases the risk of smoking and alcohol consumption, worsens the diet and decreases physical exercise," he adds. And there is Musk's example to prove it. In an interview published in August in The New York Times (NYT), the businessman of South African origin He showed difficulty speaking, he confessed to having to resort to sleeping pills to get to sleep and the so-called bulletproof coffee – coffee mixed with butter and considered a healthy food in Silicon Valley – to wake up. Soon after, the founder of Tesla appeared on a podcast smoking marijuana and drinking whiskey, saying that alcohol is a drug to which he has great appreciation.
But they are not the only effects proven by science. The overload of work produces higher probability of work stress, depression and hypertension. To these risks are added those that impact on the ability to think, the reasoning difficulties and the decrease of verbal competences; which can explain Musk's problems to express himself in the aforementioned interview.
The combination of all these factors, Sofía Vega warns, increases the chances of having accidents in the workplace, as well as the so-called in itinere (those that occur by moving to or from the office). Something that unions have been warning for a long time. UGT and CC OO recently issued a statement denouncing that "the intensification of the rhythms and workloads, together with the weakening of collective bargaining and the irresponsible and, in many cases, criminal behavior of many entrepreneurs, constitute a scenario that evidences an important step backwards in the prevention and in the working conditions that take us to overcome situations and put in serious danger the health of the working population ".
The long days are usually frantic. According to the INSST, the intensity of work, which is the sum of tight deadlines and the need to work more quickly, is suffered more often by people with endless schedules.
Elon Musk decided to increase the shifts at the Fremont factory (California) so that they cover 24 hours a day. Shortly after it was learned that Fremont exceeded the average of work accidents in the automobile sector. Ana Garcia, confederal secretary of Occupational Health of UGT, explains that in the large Spanish industries -such as the automobile industry-, there are fewer abuses due to the strong union presence. However, he explains, "this is a country of SMEs and micro-enterprises," which means that workers can not always deal with their bosses on equal terms. Here, in addition, the penalties for abusive days are stricter than in the US. "They are a serious administrative infraction," recalls Fermin Yébenes, labor inspector in Seville and spokesman for the Progressive Union of Labor Inspectors (UPIT). "Pay what is paid to the workers who suffer these days, it is attacking their health, dignity and your pocket," he says.
In addition, Yébenes explains, the technology companies, like the admired examples of the California Silicon Valley, pay unusually low salaries. "We have very qualified people charging salaries that are below other equivalent in the market," appreciates the inspector.
Finally, the lack of possibility to reconcile work and family life produced by these work marathons affects more people the lower their income level, according to Sofía Vega. Musk confessed, almost in tears, to The New York Times that he spent his birthday locked in the factory. But their case is different from that of workers with fewer resources, who do not have the possibility of making their working life compatible with family obligations.