It’s not news that technology allows us to work all the time. The effect is that workdays aren’t limited to “work hours” and the workplace isn’t limited to the office space. Add in a competitive environment where employees want to be seen putting in extra work, and all of a sudden the 60-hour workweek becomes standard. However, the brave rebels who limit their hours worked to 49 or less are generally as productive, create better quality work, and are healthier and less stressed than their overworked counterparts.
Too Many Hours vs. Just Enough
Studies have shown that the most productive employees work anywhere from 35-49 hours per week, and any work time over 50 hours decreases in quality. That comes as no surprise for those who study the impact of stress on the body.
One of the problems with working too much is that people are trading sleep hours for work hours. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine found that people who report sleeping six hours or less per night are also working 1.5 hours more than those who sleep closer to the recommended eight hours per night.
Lack of sleep and piling on of undue stress lead to health complications like high blood pressure, unhealthy eating, and other actions that negatively impact health. In fact, a study by Stanford and Harvard business schools found that working long hours can increase mortality by nearly 20 percent.
The psychological impact of working too much can lead to depression or a reliance on alcohol to help relax when you’re finally off the clock. The combination of fatigue and emotional exhaustion can, in turn, take a toll on your personal relationships.
If you find yourself expressing symptoms of working too much, it’s important to look into ways to achieve a greater work-life balance. Try and whittle down your workweek to under 49 hours. Until you’re able to get to that point, use these preventative techniques:
- Unwind on your commute. Listen to your favorite songs or a podcast. Avoid looking at screens.
- Practice mindfulness meditation
- Prioritize social activities in your schedule
How we work impacts our health just as much as how much we work
Multi-tasking is in vogue because we like to think that because we have the technology to run multiple programs and have emails open while in meetings or working on a separate project, we should use those tools all the time. Multitasking also makes us feel productive. However, the sense of productivity that we feel while multitasking is the same false sense we get from working long hours. The best work, and the best way to work for your health and wellness, is by focusing on one task for a certain amount of time.
Employees work more and multitask to chase a sense of accomplishment, but are often left unsatisfied because there’s always a task among the multitudes that requires more to do. By designing a workplace and work time to focus on accomplishable goals throughout the day every day, employees feel in control of their time and they reach a level of real productivity.
Allowing employees to be mindful in the workplace, including fixing schedules and deadlines, comes down to the organization’s culture. Leadership has to show they value a healthy work-life blend and that message has to reach every level of the organization. Leadership can give the message as much as they want, but if direct supervisors don’t live a balanced life, then their teams will continue to feel the pressure that leads to inefficient and unhealthy overworking.
When organizations embrace health and wellness in the workplace and consider how working styles impact the wellbeing of employees, they’re likely to see the effects in increased satisfaction, better productivity, and a healthier workforce that sticks around the organization longer.