Putting In Too Much Overtime Can Kill You

A worker at a McDonald’s branch in Japan died of “karoshi” — the Japanese term for death from overwork — according to officials at the local government labor bureau. The employee, a 41-year-old woman, had put in about 80 hours a month in overtime for six months before she died. “We determined her work caused the illness,” said an official at the agency.

The worker died in October 2007, after collapsing during a company training program. McDonald’s Japan has yet to comment on the case, saying the company hadn’t been contacted by authorities and needed to confirm the labor bureau’s findings. In an earlier karoshi-related case, McDonald’s paid a worker $75,000 in back overtime wages after his doctor warned him he was risking a stroke by working too hard.

The term “karoshi” is used by the Japanese government to refer to deaths — usually from heart attack or stroke — that are connected to excessive work. Approximately 150 workers die of karoshi each year, according to government data. Companies in Japan are increasingly being held liable for karoshi-related deaths and illnesses; earlier this year, a judge ruled that a man’s suicide was due to his working conditions, and ordered his employer to pay $1.2 million to his surviving relatives.

McDonald’s worker dies of ‘overwork’: officials [AFP]
Japanese firm pays £780,000 compensation over man ‘worked to death’ [Telegraph]

(Photo: hassan abdel-rahman)


Edit Your Comment

  1. wallspray says:

    How many hours a week (or month) is full time in Japan?

    • chikarin says:

      @wallspray: a typical “salaryman” is believed to work from 8 to 8. by work, most mean stay at desk until their direct boss leaves.

      since that is typical, those who do overtime probably never go home.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @wallspray: Officially, they have a 40-hour week.
      Officially, however, tentacle-porn is frowned upon.

      • cuchanu says:

        @Trai_Dep: I just discovered that stuff recently. It’s funny because years ago I had a nightmare and it pretty much was tentacle porn to the T.

        Weird shit.

        • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

          @cuchanu: Tentacle Porn is a long and storied tradition in Japan. Google “The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife” to see how far it goes back. Just don’t do it at work.

        • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

          @cuchanu: One man’s nightmare is another mans Awesome You Love Dream Ichiban Number One.

      • LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

        @Trai_Dep: And so are the schoolgirl pantie vending machines. Well, nowadays anyway.

  2. GMFish says:

    If she was working there that much, it’s my guess she was mostly eating there too. That couldn’t have helped.

  3. PTB315 says:

    I have a customer staffed by people whose work days go far beyond 40 hours a week, and I don’t envy them at all. I don’t think any amount of money would justify not having enough time to do anything with it. I like my structured 8-4 Monday through Friday, I don’t work overtime unless someone else is being negatively affected by me not having something done that I should have.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      @PTB315: Kellogg (I think) did a study back in the 20s and 30s that basically showed a 6-hour day for non-manual workers was far more productive, and they kept their secretaries on that schedule until, gosh, like the 80s or something.

      I know recent research has shown that at a certain point productivity plummets off a cliff, generally after about six hours, and no matter how many hours you have people work, they get about the same amount done they would get done in six hours.

      I see this with lawyers chasing the billable hour — after a certain number of hours a day, those aren’t very GOOD billables. They’re just billables. But since they’re evaluated by their firm by billables generated rather than by quality of work or efficiency ….

      (This is actually, a propos of another thread, one reason I liked working in journalism — when my story was done, or the paper was finished, I got to go HOME. It was a “finished product” job where there wasn’t a penalty for being efficient.)

      • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

        @Eyebrows McGee (now with more baby!): I liked being paid by the job when I worked HVAC. If we got a six hour job done in four, we could knock off early, or take a four hour job and make a little extra cash. We had an incentive to be efficient.

      • WonderKatGoBoom says:

        @Eyebrows McGee (now with more baby!): As I write this from my desk at work, I completely agree with you. At some point, I just can’t process another insurance payment or make another call.

      • floraposte says:

        @Eyebrows McGee (now with more baby!): I’ve done the 80-hour workweeks. They suck. And I don’t have kids. The caliber of production definitely degrades over long hours.

        Also, if I can take a genuine break midday, as when I’m working at home and go out for a walk or take a nap, the same amount of hours in the afternoon is much more effective.

      • HogwartsAlum says:

        @Eyebrows McGee (now with more baby!): That is SO TRUE. My brain shuts down after about 6 or 7 hours of phone and sales bullshit and the last couple hours I’m here, I don’t get squat done.

        Of course, I’m not complaining, because they’ve already cut so much of the workers’ hours and I, as one of two hourly employees in the office, could be next in line for half-days. :P

    • bohemian says:

      @PTB315: I worked at one company that was constantly making me pull overtime on short notice. Most of it was to make the direct boss over me feel good. Things like being told at 5pm that you have to stick around so you can have a meeting with your boss and some other poor sots at 7pm mainly because your boss didn’t bother to come in until 10am and now feels the need to get work done.

      It was the most inefficient place I have ever worked. I rarely had to put in OT at the company that stressed efficiency and let people work around their peak productivity times.

    • lmarconi says:

      @PTB315: Yeah, there are very very few things I like enough to work beyond my 40 hours per week. Though it’s true that in most jobs that require extensive hours(though probably not McDonalds), the pay is much better than a traditional 9-5. Look at nurses, doctors, lawyers etc – a lot of them work beyond 40 hours a week, but the pays pretty good. That said, you may a good point – who cares if you’re making money if you can’t enjoy it.

    • chocolate1234 says:

      @PTB315: So jealous! In the industry I’m in, and with the company I’m with, my hours are all over the place, and I work a lot of weekends. When I’m working at 10 hour day, I tire out way quicker, and definitely don’t get any more done than I do on a shorter day.

  4. Al Swearengen says:

    I could see that happening. I once did 70-80 hours a week for about 16 weeks straight and I felt like I was going to die.

    • The Porkchop Express says:

      @Al Swearengen: I did 80 hours a week for a month and that was all I could take.

    • zombies.like.lattés.too says:

      @Al Swearengen: @The Porkchop Express: the woman in the article “had put in about 80 hours a MONTH in overtime”.

      That’s not to say how many hours per WEEK she was working, but that only works out to 20 hours of overtime per week.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @Al Swearengen: The thing with crazy overtime is that it’s dumb macho posturing. The productivity plummets after 8-10 hours, and then nose-dives even further after that. And that’s excluding creative work.
      Almost all the projects I’ve done under those situations I’ve looked at later and shake my head regretfully when I’m alone. But ya gotta do ’em to keep face.

    • Al Swearengen says:

      @Al Swearengen:

      And by the end of it I swear I was starting to have physical reactions when it was time to go to work. When your body tells you its time to take a break, take it.

    • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

      @Al Swearengen: Yep. I was working an 8-5 schedule and was asked to fill in a very small speaking part in a show at my University. Straight from work to rehearsal, with maybe a stop at home to grab a sammich, and then back home to sleep amounted to maybe 13, 14 hour days. When Production week hit, though, it was a marathon of 16+ hour days. It was rough. i can’t even imagine what 16 weeks of that would have been like. >.<

  5. MostlyHarmless says:

    I read it in Times of India a few years ago, that the Japanese lifestyle is getting so fast and so hectic, that it makes the Mumbai commuters look like lazy bums.

    The gist of it was that people work way too hard, do not have time to bear kids, and even the transit system is so effingly efficient that a 15 second delay can cause you to miss a connection.

    Any idea if that is actually the case?

    • Blueskylaw says:


      Sounds about right in a country with efficient train service.

      I was in Italy and my cousin/guide said, we have to run, the train leaves in 35 seconds. Sure enough, the doors closed in 35 seconds and away we went.

    • lmarconi says:

      @MostlyHarmless: It’s very much the case. Women often work as secretaries, meet a man from their office in their late 20s and marry them. A large number are choosing to pursue careers though, and because of that they choose not to get married because career = no time for family. Hence the falling birth rate – it’s a crisis in Japan (though its creating opportunities for foreign workers).

      If a woman does get married, she spends most her time taking care of kids and elderly parents in the suburbs. The husband, if he comes home at all, wakes up in the wee hours of the morning for work, takes the train in to the city (sometimes a 2 hr or more commute), then comes home late late at night. Some husbands choose to have a tiny tiny apartment/box in the city that they rent for the work week. Many big companies require after work socialization and attendance at work related gatherings, increasing time spent with coworkers and away from family.
      Some young men are so freaked out by this future that they just collapse – there’s a crisis of young men going into their rooms at their parents house at 17 or 20 and not emerging for 5, 10, 15 years except to find food late at night. I took a Japanese culture course recently – it was actually kind of shocking, all the crazy ways Japan is this fucked up post-modern hellhole.
      That said, there are lots of exceptions to this rule in Japan, and certainly lifestyles are more hectic and stressful in big cities or for executives, just like here : )

    • Papercutninja says:

      @MostlyHarmless: My understanding is (being an employee of a Japanese company in America) that in Japan if there is a significant delay by the mass transit system, the transit system ACTUALLY hands out lateness notices for the employees to hand to their bosses upon late arrival.

    • deniseb says:

      @MostlyHarmless: I believe Americans work more hours than the Japanese; at least they did the last time I saw figures published.

    • rockasocky says:

      @MostlyHarmless: As someone who has to occasionally sprint from one train to the next in heels, yes, 15 seconds can make all the difference in the world.

  6. PTB315 says:

    I remember doing a full time job and a part time overnight job, between the traveling and the work itself I was probably pulling about 14 hours a day. I lasted about a month I think. It was easily the most miserable month of my life.

    • PTB315 says:

      @PTB315: This was supposed to be in reply to MostlyHarmless

    • cash_da_pibble says:

      I once did 8 hour days at a retail store, then pulled another four as a waitress straight out of college while looking for work. My bicycle was my main mode of transportation- so it was physically demanding just GETTING to work.

      I only lasted about three months.
      Waitressing is really brutal work, and I respect full-time waitresses, no matter the restauraunt.

  7. coren says:

    How in the world do you build up 75 grand in back wages? That’s insane (unless they let you carry it as comp time that you can cash out for pay or vacation – but usually they cap that (and honestly I’d believe it’d be somewhere around 5,000 (assuming 30 days at 8 hours a day and 20 dollars an hour – generous for someone working at Mickey D))). Unless it was in yen, not dollars, but I kinda doubt it

  8. zarex42 says:

    80 hours a month in overtime? So that’s what, 20 hours a week or so? 3 extra hours a day?

    Are you kidding me?

    There are hordes of people trying to make ends meet and working far more than this. This is NOT a demanding schedule. And she was only 41!

    It’s ridiculous that a government agency would blame overwork for her death.

    • TheWillow says:

      @zarex42: Assuming the regular Japanese workday is 8 hours. Which it’s not.

      • zarex42 says:

        @TheWillow: So what are they? 10? 12?

        So she was working, at the very most (which I doubt) 13-15 hours a day?

        Big whoop.

        • Ubik2501 says:

          @zarex42: “Big whoop,” huh? How many hours a day do you work, and in what field? Not even the most hardcore lawyers I know go “big whoop” at working 15 hours a day.

          • rocketbear79 says:

            @Ubik2501: I sit at a desk all day for my job and get to read Giz and Cnsmrst while code runs in the background and I know a 15 hour day would have me contemplating Seppuku in no time at all.

            • Ubik2501 says:

              @rocketbear79: I’m in the same boat, actually, but I’ve worked more physical jobs before as well. But even with drastically different kinds of work, there’s not one job on earth I’d want to do for 15 hours straight. Doing that on a regular basis would, at the very least, wreck my mental and physical health.

              @bohemian: I absolutely agree. Working ridiculous hours doesn’t just hurt your health, it harms productivity, accuracy and efficiency. Ultimately, nobody benefits from working too long, too hard, including the short-sighted bosses who force you to do so.

          • bohemian says:

            @Ubik2501: He has enough free time to post here.

          • zarex42 says:

            @Ubik2501: I work around 12-14 hours a day, and have for years. I worked 16+ hours for quite a while, including a night shift in a factory. It’s really not that big of a deal. My parents and grandparents all are hard workers.

            What ever happened to the pride associated with that? Why are people so often resorting to the victim mentality?

            And I see no evidence at all that her normal schedule was “8 to 8”, plus overtime.

            • Ubik2501 says:

              @zarex42: There’s nothing wrong with having pride in your work, and I believe that most people do. I know I have pride in what I do, and when I’m at work I work hard. But it’s a problem when you let your work rule your life enough that it’s significantly detrimental to your physical and mental health. Working more hours doesn’t make you a better person, nor does it mean that you have more pride in your work. It can be bad for the company, too: more hours worked doesn’t necessarily mean more work done, as cited by several other responses to this article. And asserting your rights as a worker and trying to improve your life doesn’t make you a “victim” – that’s just a meaningless character assault.

              I was extrapolating the possible number of hours she worked based on what I know of Japanese working culture and the responses in this thread, but neither of us actually knows how many hours she worked.

              • zarex42 says:


                She’s not “asserting her rights”; she died from something, and it’s far from clear that it’s “overwork”, and justifying a healthy cash settlement.

                I don’t think she’s a victim, but a lot of people here sure do, and I think it’s sad.

                • Aquasol says:

                  @zarex42: I expect you to work 170 hours a week.

                  P.S.: That 8-8 schedule doesn’t include the extra travel time to get around in many parts of Japan, as well as unpaid worktime. Not many humans can stay mentally stable working more than half of the 168hrs in a week, let alone have the physical stamina to work at peak performance in that time.

                  …Also, how the hell is it “clear” she died from something other than overwork? I know you likely don’t, but have you any idea just how much people walk in Japan, especially Tokyo? It’s absolutely absurd how much walking has to be done to get anywhere!

                • Aquasol says:

                  @zarex42: Also, as pointed out below, that’s 80hrs/month in OVERTIME ALONE. That’s roughly 20hrs extra per week, and with a typical workweek being 60-72 hours, she was nailing some 80-92 hours/week. Not counting travel time and the usual “waiting till your direct boss leaves”.

                  Yes, we don’t have her specific work schedule, but going off the standard alone…

                • jamar0303 says:

                  @zarex42: No, I think it’s sad that people like you will say such things. She’s dead. A previously healthy woman does not randomly drop dead. I think the Japanese government is in the right and should push this position as far as it can go. If McD wants to leave because it thinks this is going to cost them too much (like Iceland but different reason) so be it.

            • ARP says:

              @zarex42: Question, why do you need to work that many hours? Are you trying to get ahead or just trying to get by?

              In the “golden era” of the middle class, they were doing 40-50 hour weeks, and didn’t have a spouse working.

              I wonder if its our consumer spending or stagnant wages (or both). It certainly wasn’t taxes (They had a 70% income tax for the top earners).

            • Rectilinear Propagation says:

              @zarex42: There was never any pride associated with working yourself to death. There’s a difference between working hard at your job and handing your life over to your employer.

              If working all day isn’t a big deal to you then fine, but that’s you. Just because lots of people are working insane hours doesn’t mean it’s not demanding.

    • Ubik2501 says:

      @zarex42: As mentioned above, the average Japanese workday is “8 to 8,” or 12 hours. Working that five days a week amounts to 60 hours, and 20 extra hours a week on top of that is an 80-hour week. I know people who work that many hours, but a) they’re typically lawyers who don’t have to run around in a hot, greasy kitchen area all day, and b) even then they tend to look (and reportedly feel) like total wrecks.

      Plus, this is already a recurring problem with Japanese salarymen, and if it’s typical enough that they have a term for it, it’s become a pretty big problem.

      • bohemian says:

        @Ubik2501: An 80 hour work week will about kill you sitting at a desk. Doing one in a busy, noisy and stressful environment certainly will.

        Working yourself to death is not heroic. The mentality that putting in some insane amount of hours gives you bragging rights is pretty foolish. Humans were not meant to work like that.

  9. zarex42 says:

    And even the very prospect of holding the company responsible, especially assessing damages, is sickening and reprehensible.

    • bjdhtgjvbhdgd says:

      @zarex42: Are you kidding? No one works that much overtime for the fun of it. Management probably forced him to.

      • zarex42 says:

        @Method of Steepest Descent: I highly doubt it. It’s not even that much overtime.

        I’m really disappointed that the world is so full of wimps nowadays.

        • Ubik2501 says:

          @zarex42: So anybody who doesn’t work 14-hour days is now a “wimp.” Got it. Do we need to have lost limbs as children working in textile factories to qualify as manly men as well?

          • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

            @Ubik2501: Limbs? Pheh. I have Phossy Jaw. You’re all pussies.

          • zarex42 says:

            @Ubik2501: No, anyone who WHINES about how much they’re a “victim” for working 14-hour days is a wimp.

            • subtlefrog says:

              @zarex42: My SO was on a project when we met that was so poorly managed that he was working well over 80 hours / week on average – his record was 110+ in one week. His entire team was working like this to meet deadline. This is a problem. Companies like this should be held accountable for doing this to their employees, in some way so that they learn from their mistakes.

              For example, in this case, it was the lead in charge of that project which should have been better at planning and taking input from others suggesting that things were way off the mark early on. When managers are this piss-poor, something should be done.

              BF didn’t whine to me, this is simply my observation as a casual (though biased) observer.

          • TVarmy says:

            @Ubik2501: Yes. Kids have it too easy. Look at a kid playing on the Xbox 360. See how those little fingers move dexterously in precise movements?

            Clearly, someone should be threading bobbins. And another thing: If kids lost their limbs, they wouldn’t be so bratty.

        • floraposte says:

          @zarex42: Keep in mind she actually died. It’s not like she’s faking this.

        • deniseb says:

          @zarex42: Most of us are not competing for the Mr. Macho title – we have other things to do.

        • Charmander says:

          @zarex42: Yep, some of us have better things to do, like enjoying our lives away from work. I would never work more than 40 hours in a single week.

          As the saying goes: some people live to work, and some people work to live – and most people I know are in the latter category.

    • jamar0303 says:

      @zarex42: No, if anything, it should be an example for other countries to follow. “Sickening and reprehensible” is what I find your viewpoint to be. he only way to get a company to pay attention is to hit it in the wallet. Japan may be lacking in other aspects, but it hits this one spot-on.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      @zarex42: So now not only should we be working at our job 24/7 it’s somehow awful to expect to get overtime pay for it.

      Are you like a crazy person?

  10. dripdrop says:

    How timely! I’ve been working overtime this week to make up for furloughs. You see, staff/faculty at the University I work at have 6 furlough days. But if you make under a certain amount of money, the state can’t furlough you and I’m one of those people. So instead of having to use my paid leave time to cover the furlough days, I’ve been working overtime to compensate. I don’t know what’s worse at this point–being furloughed or being paid so poorly that the state takes pity on you.

  11. pax says:

    I did 18-hour days 4 days a week and about a 12-hour day one day a week, plus some hours on the weekends, when I was transitioning into teaching. Granted, those figures do include travel time, but I would estimate I was looking at 14-16 hours of actual work out of that 18, which is still a lot. This was only for about two months, but yeah, I felt like death most of the time.

  12. chakrabs says:

    Try being a medical student where you have to pay for the privilege of working for hours on straight, just to put yourself in a position to work even harder with lives on the line for

  13. Esquire99 says:

    A 60hr week (40 + 20 of overtime)? Cry me a river. Many professionals work in the 50-60 range.

    • shepd says:


      Glad to see the old ways die hard, quite literally.

      Fuck being with your family or having a life. Life is work. Work is life. We must all work together as hard as we can to build a stronger USSR comrade! Those who die from work are to be celebrated by being incorporated into the bridges they helped build!

      Oh, whoops, sorry–I meant North America.

      • Esquire99 says:

        I think that was pretty uncalled for.

        • shepd says:


          I think suggesting that people devote more time to work than their family is, quite frankly, a ridiculous idea. 60 hours means you devote more life to work than you devote to sleeping or family (assuming an additional 1 hour per day for prep time and travel time — heck, assuming even 15 minutes for that a day still puts you over the edge).

          I find it personally insulting that you feel it is fine to belittle professionals such as myself who chose to work 40 hours a week as standard (although, on occasion, I’ll work more if needed) and I feel quite justified in pointing out the lunacy of your statement.

          Life is family and friends. Work is not life. Living life to work is what a machine does.

          • ARP says:

            @shepd: The problem is that with current salaries being stagnant for the middle class for years, sometimes it takes that much work to get by.

            Also, a cultural thing in the West is that you don’t talk about how much you make. In other countries, they talk about it all the time, so that people know where they should work and if they’re being paid fairly.

          • Esquire99 says:

            While I certainly understand your point, your initial response was still unnecessary. Had you posted your second response first, I feel like it would have at least made sense, as opposed to your profanity-laced diatribe.

            Further, I was merely pointing out a fact of professional life in the US. I wasn’t belittling professionals who only work 40 hours per week. I was pointing out that 60hrs per week isn’t so ridiculously insane that a person could die from it. I have re-read my statement a couple of times, yet I still fail to see how you were so insulted by it. Perhaps it’s some professional angst derived from your choice to only work 40 hours per week as you watch your colleagues who work more than that advance ahead of you.

            • jamar0303 says:

              @Esquire99: And in Japan it’s completely different. After-work “socialization” isn’t optional. Getting home past midnight isn’t uncommon. No wonder cases like this happen.

      • El_Red says:

        @chakrabs: Cry me a river. Once you finish your studies, you’ll get a good pay and/or lots of authority/respect. Don’t you dare compare this to a minimum wage job, 80 hours/week. You have a goal and a future. Most of minimum-wage workers don’t.

    • calquist says:

      @Esquire99: I think her job is a little more physically challenging. Maybe not as stressful, but standing 60 hours a week takes a toll.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @Esquire99: The average Japanese salaryman works 12 hours a day, for a regular 60-hour workweek. Add in 20 hours of overtime and he’s working 80 hours a week. Does this change your assessment?

      • Esquire99 says:

        @pecan 3.14159265:
        I don’t think the 12 hour day is accurate. Per the OECD, the average Japanese works 1838 hours per year. Lets assume 2 weeks off, so we’ll divide that by 50. That’s an average of 36.56 hours per week. Compare that to the average US workers year of 1777 (divide by 50 also) and you get 35.54. So their workweek isn’t really any longer than ours.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          @Esquire99: Do the Japanese get two weeks off? Americans get it off for various national holidays, but do the Japanese give their workers days off for that?

        • Kogenta says:

          @Esquire99: I think the problem with any statistics (for any country, not just Japan) is that it only uses reported hours (unless they get data by stalking people). It’s probably changed over the last few decades, but Japanese work culture used to expect that you would put in a lot of unreported overtime. Some companies used to keep sleep rooms for the people who worked so many hours a day that it wouldn’t be worthwhile to go home at all.

          And I mean, it’s probably a problem across all countries and professions, but the intensity of which it was expected in Japanese culture was substantially greater than countries.

          • Naame says:

            @Kogenta: I have a friend who moved to Japan about 4 years ago and the stories he has told me far surpass what is projected as reality in this article. So, my suspicion is that your theory regarding the margin of error due to the limitation of reported hours is accurate.

            It is normal for the Japanese to work insane numbers of hours. They also happen to have one of the highest suicide rates across the globe iirc which I am sure is contributed to more than just overtime, but overtime is a big consistency amongst their male citizens.

        • Papercutninja says:

          @Esquire99: So clearly you’ve never ACTUALLY had any contact with anyone who works with or for the Japanese. 8-8 or 9-9 depending on what company this is at. Whether or not there is actual work to do. I’ve seen General Managers read newspapers at their desks at around 7:00pm. It’s a culture of shame. You’re not supposed to leave before an unspoken time.

          All these hours are NOT reported. Ever.

    • Kogenta says:

      @Esquire99: The linked article says 80 hours or more per month. And I’m wondering if that number is on record, off record or a combination of both overtime hours.

      Also, most professions where people choose/end up having to work 60+ hours a week also tend to be professions where you know, you’re allowed to sit down for large parts of your job. Off hand I can’t think of any sales service positions where the norm is 60+ hours a week.

      • strawberryjam says:


        I’m a salaried store manager of a large chain video store and regularly work 50-60 hour weeks. No breaks. No lunches. Don’t have the labor for additional help during the day, so those shifts are without anyone else in the 4,000+ square foot store. Add in incredible sales pressure and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

        And yes, I’m looking for something else.

        • Kogenta says:

          @strawberryjam: Ah sorry, what I meant were the front line employees (your cashiers, service specialists, etc). I’m more than aware that manger level staff (yeah, even the ones that are basically front line employees with a fancy title) end up working ridiculous hours. The managers in the retail store I used to work at would routinely come in on their days off, or stay hours later than their official shift to do orders or other things that they simply couldn’t otherwise get done. It doesn’t help that unlike “employees”, managerial staff don’t swipe in and out, so all that overtime is completely unreported.

    • Naame says:

      @Esquire99: Actually, those are just the suckers that like to call themselves professionals to make themselves feel better. The real professionals are the ones working 20-30 hours per week and hire the suckers to do those all those extra hours for them.

      Before you get your panties tied in a knot know that I’m kidding…sort of.

      • deniseb says:

        @Naame: Salaried employment is the biggest sucker game going. In what other financial transaction does someone pay a fixed amount of money for something undefined? Professionals? Dream on. Professionals charge for every minute they work. And try telling a painter you’ll give him $2000 for a week but won’t tell him how many rooms he has to paint.

        • Naame says:

          @deniseb: I’d say that in a large number of cases you are correct. However, it really depends on the lifestyle of the employee and the expectations of the employer.

          Take me for instance. My employer provides amazing benefits including a lot of flexible time off. I am on salary. Without going into detail, my lifestyle requires me to take more time off at than most at unexpected intervals if I am to maintain what I consider my top priorities. My employer also never expects me to do overtime because they set themselves up in such a way that there are enough employees to get the job done without having to do such things (rare, I know).

          However, I realize that not everyone has that luxury. In addition, not everyone share’s my lifestyle and values so for them working hourly or on some kind of contract based work might benefit them more.

          The point I am trying to make is that choosing to go with salaried employment is a sucker’s choice for some, but a genius’s choice for others. It is all on a case by case basis.

    • TheWillow says:

      @Esquire99: Yeah, and how many of them make minimum wage?

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:

        @TheWillow: OMG, THIS

        Making the bare minimum at physically intensive jobs is not the same thing as working overtime at a desk job paying you a lot of money.

    • BridgetPentheus says:


      And when you mean “work:” do you mean straight 12 hour days, i.e. you start working the minute you get there on your feet, don’t get your lunch or a break or time to post on things like the consumerist, sit for meetings, maintain professional networks, talk to coworkers etc. If you can maintain a schedule like that then you’re actually WORKING 12 hours a day, I don’t call them a wimp when it includes a two hour lunch, internet surfing, talking to coworkers and sitting I don’t count it as working

  14. anaisnun says:

    Working at an Alaskan fish cannery in my 20’s, we would work 7 days a week; start at 5am and go till 11pm on the heaviest days, the easy days we started at 7am and worked til 7pm-9pm.
    In a summer season, the only day off was 4th of July.
    The beauty of it was that we were paid in a lump sum at the end and anything over 40 hrs a week was overtime. Quite a pocketful of cash.
    BUT this was 3 months max, I can see how someone could just die at a sustained pace!

  15. cuchanu says:

    I worked two full time jobs totaling between 75-85 hrs. a week for about 6 months. I would fall asleep standing up until I discovered energy drinks. Basically my life was going to work, getting off, going to 24 fitness for a shower, changing into clothes for the 2nd job, driving to the other job, then sleeping in my car until the shift started.
    It gave me some grey hair, literally. But it was for a good cause: a 5 month vacation in Central America.

  16. Wang_Chung_Tonight says:

    take me back to the man defined in “Wild at Heart” by John Eldridge.

  17. H3ion says:

    Does this come within the post, “Jobs With The Highest Stress For The Lowest Pay”.

    If the woman had an undiagnosed heart condition, she could have been a mattress tester 40 hours a week and still died. I don’t think it was necessarily the job.

    • Ubik2501 says:

      @H3ion: Job stress could certainly have exacerbated it, though, causing her to die from the condition a lot earlier than she would have otherwise. Even perfectly healthy people get pretty physically and mentally wrecked by extremely long work hours.

  18. bobbycreekwater says:

    Welcome to the life of a CPA! During “busy” season (which seems to revolve on a 12 month cycle) I work at least 60 hours a week (and CPAs dont get paid overtime)

    • floraposte says:

      @bobbycreekwater: We’re talking closer to 80 hours a week, and not just seasonally, and being unable to sit down. Add to that the fact that there’s considerably greater stress farther down the labor chain. I’ve had extensive periods of 80 hours a week, but they weren’t on my feet in a fast-food restaurant with no control over my job and a demanding public in front of me, and I’m therefore pretty sure my experience was cushy compared to hers.

      • chocolate1234 says:

        @floraposte: Yeah, the not sitting is a big thing. I worked for a few years at a bank out of college, and I rarely if ever sat down, even during ten hour days. After a few 10 hour days I was wiped.

  19. angryneo says:

    Do you know what they call a Quarter-Pounder with Cheese in Japan?

  20. Shappie says:

    80 hours a month??

    I work 80 hours a week from October – March.

    My only regret is that I’m salary. :(

    • MaliBoo Radley says:


      80 hours a month in overtime. So, that was in addition to her regular schedule. As we’re learned, the average work week for the Japanese is 8-8. So, 12 hours a day as a base, the additionall 80 hours. So, she was probably working 15 hours a day for 6 months.

    • Mecharine says:

      @Shappie: Well, thats 80 hrs of overtime + 12 hrs a day most likely.

    • webweazel says:

      @Shappie: Retail, huh? Department store? My Mom’s at Macy’s. Has been in dept. stores for 40 years. That job will kill her. During December, I bet. I sympathize.

  21. AllanG54 says:

    I’ll bet she didn’t die from the overtime, probably was more from smelling like old French fries. A smell that never seems to wash out of one’s uniform. My son worked at a Mickey D’s on weekends for 5 years from when he was 14-19. He reeked every time he came home.

  22. Mecharine says:

    I remember that article about Canon’s Japanese workshops where they removed all the chairs and measured the velocity of their workers as they walked to and fro.

    Its still a feudal society there. Only thing that’s changed is the uniform.

  23. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    It might be in poor taste, all things considered, but Super Karoshi is a pretty fun game if you ask me. Sure beats working 80 hours a week anyway.

  24. Saboth says:

    I believe it. People don’t understand that with more work, less pay, more hours, etc that all people are working these days, comes more stress, and that could definately cause health problems.

  25. Mr.Duke says:

    It isn’t a large amount. I averaged 70 hours of overtime per month for 4 years when I worked at a large financial institution earlier in the decade. On 20 workdays per month, that is only 3.5 hours of overtime per day. Easy. Piece of cake. Especially nice every other Friday on payday. The secret is to eat a very good diet and exercise 1 hour per day no matter how you feel and sleep 7 hours per day. It can be done. You have to be motivated and goal oriented. Now you will have little time on weekdays for TV, shopping or friends. That stuff falls off a bridge.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      I averaged 70 hours of overtime per month for 4 years when I worked at a large financial institution earlier in the decade.

      Translation: You spent 3.5 extra hours sitting. Do you not see how that’s not the same as working at a physically intensive job? That you’re not going to have a good diet if you spend your entire day at a McDonald’s? That clearly it is a large amount of overtime if it affects your health?

  26. gerrycomo says:

    How can one say:

    “Can I have 10 McNuggets and I want all of them boot-shaped, with bbq, mustard and honey sauce, 1 of each , please?” in Japanese?

  27. ARP says:

    I find it strange that that are some many comments essentially saying, “you think that’s bad? I work X!” Why is that something to be proud of (for anyone)? To me, it means our priorities are messed up and we’re not paid enough for our work. This whole “just work harder” meme is a sham. My grandfather worked 40-50 hour weeks at a bank in middle management, my grandmother didn’t have to work, they had two kids, two cars, a moderate sized house, and had enough money for a vacation or a big-ish purchase once in a while. How did we get here?

    • Al Swearengen says:


      “you think that’s bad? I work X!”

      Sounds like a Family Guy episode

    • chocolate1234 says:

      @ARP: I wonder that myself. And that’s also why I’m getting out of the industry I’m in. All the focus is on making money for the company, and excessive work. I personally think people need to take more time to enjoy LIFE.

  28. Boberto says:

    I work as an RN, 3 12 hour shifts a week. On it’s face, 4 days off every week sounds great until you factor in the on call obligation.

    I’ve been called in for emergent care situations many times and very quickly, my 36 hour week balloons into a 50 or 60 hour week. Many times I’ve worked close to 24 hours straight

  29. Steven Francis says:

    This is really inhuman. These companies especially MNC’s are forcing the employees to work overtime. These poor people trying to get some extra money to feed their family are going for that. This is really ridiculous but someone needs to take some action against this. There should be a strict rule. The lady in Japan is a single case raised there may be many cases which are not raised to public.

  30. unpolloloco says:

    60 hr/week isn’t really all that bad (not nice, but horrible). I think there was a second contributing factor (namely, the food).

  31. JollyJumjuck says:

    I refuse to believe it. After all, the harder you work, the more you get paid. So even though this person who managed a McDonald’s died, there are executives in that and other companies who work much, much harder. How do I know they work much harder? Well, duh, because they get paid more, and we all know that people get paid what they deserve.


  32. jenjen says:

    I always enjoy comment threads where people try to outvictim each other. Right. I had to get up in the morning at ten o’clock at night, half an hour before I went to bed, eat a lump of cold poison, work twenty-nine hours a day down mill, and pay mill owner for permission to come to work, and when we got home, our Dad would kill us, and dance about on our graves singing “Hallelujah.”

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      @jenjen: It’s like that Weird Al song, “When I Was Your Age”

      Well, nobody ever drove me to school when it was ninety degrees below
      We had to walk buck naked through forty miles of snow
      Worked in the coal mines twenty two hours a day for just half a cent
      Had to sell my internal organs just to pay the rent

  33. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Eating properly
    Sleeping properly
    Special needs children
    Elderly adults
    Special needs adults
    Ongoing medical problems

    How are you supposed to do any of that if you spend all your waking hours at your job (and commuting to and from work)? When did those first four things become optional?