|According to a recent study released by the Families and Work Institute, one in three American employees is chronically overworked. In fact, a poll released by the National Sleep Foundation reports that 25 percent of respondents are working between nine and 10 hours each day … and one in three are working more than 10. The question remains: Do all these long hours at the office do anyone any good? One of the first companies to implement the eight-hour workday was Ford Motor Company®. Henry Ford based this on the premise that after an eight-hour day, productivity typically went down. There are more recent studies that show an inverse relationship between motivation and the number of hours an employee works each day. Increase employees’ hours 10 to 20 percent above and beyond that of a typical workweek, and productivity generally decreases. This isn’t to say there isn’t a time for long hours and occasional overtime, but how can we help manage some of the negative effects long hours can have on employees? Keep reading for more information.|
The effects of being overworked
Long hours at the office typically come at the expense of family life, health and rest. Achieving balance is no easy task, but it is of importance to note some of the negative effects of being overworked. Here are just a few:
- Obesity: Staying late and coming in early can wreak havoc on our sleep schedules and leaves little time for exercise. There is a connection between sleep deprivation and poor eating habits. In fact, a three-year study of white-collar workers found a correlation between working overtime with body-mass index and waist size.
- Stress and illness: The stress of being overworked can contribute to heart disease, hypertension, gastric problems, chronic illness, depression and exhaustion. What’s more, half of all employees are less productive at work because of stress—this results in difficulty concentrating and a loss of work hours.
- Decreased job performance and low morale: Employees who are overworked are more likely to make mistakes—26 percent of those surveyed by the Families and Work Institute who report being overworked explain they make a lot of work-related mistakes. Thirty-nine percent feel angry toward their employers and 34 percent resent their co-workers.
Love ‘em before you lose ‘em
If your employees are overworked and overstressed, here are some simple things that can be implemented to smother the burnout:
- Encourage breaks: We are human beings … not machines. Our minds can only focus on a given task from only 90 to 120 minutes. After that, our brains require a brief break in order to regain focus. Encourage employees to stand up, stretch and take a little break every one and a half to two hours, and promote vacation. Close to three in four employees report feeling more energized after returning from a vacation; however, only one in three Americans plan on using all their vacation days in a given year. Celebrate upcoming vacations and reward employees for taking them—luggage tags or a travel bag set can come in handy when preparing for an upcoming trip. Plus, a small send-off gift can be a great way to promote the benefits of vacation.
- Celebrate wins: Lots of little wins can add up to big successes. Publicly discussing and celebrating these wins can increase confidence and boost morale—especially during stressful and busy times. Encourage employees to share their wins and reward them with a small token of thanks such as a talking thank you pen, a thank you tumbler or even a company-sponsored lunch. Remember, it’s the wins that count, not the hours put in at the office.
- Meditation: When the going gets tough, the tough meditate. During especially stressful times, simple meditative techniques such as time-outs, relaxation exercises or simple mindfulness can dramatically change the way our bodies cope with stress. When a busy time is approaching, provide employees with a copy of Everyday Calm—Relaxing Rituals for Busy People—this book includes more than 50 stress-relieving rituals that can be practiced at home or in the office. And have a stress survival kit available in each department—fill a basket with individual packs of relaxation lotion, scalp massagers and stress relievers—all great choices to take the edge off a particularly stressful day.
Remember, overworked employees are rarely more productive. In fact, the result is typically lower quality work at a higher cost—and the cost is health, happiness and balance.
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