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Working too hard? Finding the right balance

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Working hard can have mutual benefits for both employees and employers.

The former may be rewarded for their efforts with extra pay, and in time career progression, while the latter can witness greater productivity and end output, boosting the bottom line.

But this is only true to a certain point. As reports from Taiwan have revealed this week, working too hard may, on occasion, have tragic consequences.

According to the nation’s Council of Labour Affairs (CLA), in 2011 alone the deaths of nearly 50 workers could be attributed to working excessive overtime.

This was four times the number of deaths reported in the previous year, suggesting that many Taiwanese workers are failing to fully rest and recuperate between shifts.

According to the BBC, there have been several high-profile cases over the past two years, such as Nanya Technology engineer Hsu Shao-pin, who had a heart attack and died at the age of 29.

Up until six months before his death, he had been working 99 hours of overtime each month – some way over the legal limit.

Similarly, 29-year-old security guard Chiang Ding-kuo suffered a fatal stroke after working 288 to 300 hours a month for almost a decade.

Workers are permitted to work just 46 additional hours a month, however some employees may secure exemptions to this ruling.

Sun Yu-lian, secretary-general of Taiwan Labor Front, said there have been cases of deaths from overwork for some time, including migrant workers who died from overwork.

“But in the past, some people thought it was just a regular heart attack,” he stated. “What’s different about the recent cases is that the families dare to speak out.”

Peng Feng-me, a specialist at the CLA’s labour safety and health department, said there are laws, but also problems with the laws being followed.

“It has to do with the local culture,” he noted. “Taiwan’s employers don’t follow the laws. They find loopholes because they think no one will check.”

While British employees are seen as being some of the hardest-working in Europe, most workers know where to draw the line where overtime is concerned.

And employers recognise that quantity of work does not always relate to quality – workers’ concentration inevitably tails off if they spend too much time in serviced office space or other workplaces.