By now, at the end of 2022, our definition of “work” is much different than it was five years ago. The word “work” is no longer synonymous with a physical location. Though some companies are back in the office, for others, “going to work” may mean taking a short trip down the hall to a home workspace. Others are combining the two with a hybrid approach. Regardless of where employees are located, productivity is what all businesses are focused on to be at their best.
Too often, we view hours online or hours in the office as a measurement of an employee or team’s productivity. There are some work cultures that highlight people working 50, 60, or 70+ hours a week as the ones truly dedicated to the company. But does that really mean a company is getting the best out of their employees?
Employee productivity data has been around for decades. Studies have shown that productivity per hour declines significantly when employees work more than 50 hours a week. It drops so much after 55 hours for many people that extra hours beyond that are virtually pointless. It's no surprise that being busy and overwhelmed are, in fact, barriers to success. Additionally, not taking at least one full day off per week leads to lower hourly output overall. Research also reveals the damage to our physical health that overwork can cause.
The more working hours over 40, the less return for those hours worked. Working more also causes costly health problems and potentially bad habits. Overworked employees may have depression, turn to alcohol, have reduced sleep and memory, have diminished reasoning capability over time, and can even have increased chances for heart disease and diabetes.
What You Can Do
If your work culture has pushed for things like back-to-back shifts or has been trying to get more productivity by increasing hours, it’s time to evaluate just how much that may be hurting the bottom line. Here’s what you should be asking:
- Are we actively championing those that work excessive hours?
- How are we measuring productivity?
- If we’ve increased hours, have we had more turnover costs, potentially due to burnout?
If there are teams that consistently are being pushed to work excessive hours, look at workflow. Finding more efficient ways to complete projects can reduce stress on teams and their leaders. Less stress means more engaged and productive employees.
Share information with leadership on which teams and/or locations are consistently working too many hours. This can allow you to do more targeted messaging and training to help create more resilient teams.
Speak with leadership about how they view productivity and how they measure this metric. Share specific data with them showing the benefits of optimal hours to get the best out of your workforce.
Having the Right Information
Often it is middle-level managers that get stuck between expectations from the top and what they are seeing in their teams. If you have specific benefits and programs for employees that are meant to protect their health and wellbeing, educate managers on what’s available. Make sure this training is done several times a year, so it is always top of mind.
For the C-Suite, build the business case and be able to share how you would like to make some changes in workflow or hours worked with specific action steps. Share with them how you will measure the success of those action steps and potential savings to the company.
The other issue may be that some of your employees are workaholics. Yes, that is a real thing. Research indicates that workaholism affects between 27% and 30% of the general population. Company leadership should make sure they are not equating workaholism with having a great work ethic, working hard, being dedicated to work, loving one's job, or occasionally working long hours to meet a deadline.
Some Research You Can Share with Your Team:
- According to a study by Chan, Ngan, & Wong (2019), people who work 11 hours per day (such as workaholics) have a 67% greater chance of suffering from coronary disease than those who work 8 hours per day.
- According to research by Dembe, Ericson, Delbos, and Banks (2005), people who work 12 or more hours per day are 37% more prone to job-related injuries.
- A Balducci, Avanzi & Fraccaroli (2018) study has indicated that there is a link between workaholism and health problems such as high systolic blood pressure and higher levels of mental distress (usually occurring one year later).