Quick question. How many hours have you worked this week? Considering it's Friday, we're hoping your answer is just under 40 or maybe 50. Already hit that mark? You should probably go home. Seriously. While we mean that in the nicest way possible, the reason being is people just aren't productive after working 40 hours a week. Which is why the quickest thing your workplace can do to increase profit, is to stop over-working your employees.
People were never meant to work 60, 80 or 100 hour weeks in an office. After 40 hours, productivity steadily decreases. That's why the best thing your workplace can do to increase profit and improve morale, is to stop over-working your employees, or prevent them from over-working themselves. From lack of sleep resulting in work errors, to increased health risks, plus a higher turnover rate - there's a slew of research proving overworked employees cost a company money in the end. Here's the science behind why you and your team need to take those vacation days, go home after you've clocked in 8 hours, and stop answering your work email on Saturday mornings.
A Gallup poll from 2014 found 4 in 10 Americans reported they work more than 50 hours every week, while 2 in 10 work more than 60 hours. It appears that at least 60% of the working class is working too much. The average workweek is no longer 40 hours, it's more like 47. It's a competitive market out there, and employees are feeling the need to outperform their peers.
Even at forward-thinking companies like Amazon, people feel pressure to not go home. The Seattle-based company recently received scrutiny for a string of interviews where employees reported, "80-plus-hour workweeks were the norm – which is indicative of a larger trend of overwork that has seeped into the American psyche".
So if everybody is doing it, there has to be a valid reason, right? We must be getting more done if we're sitting in the office longer, or answering emails during our children's soccer games. The truth is, we're actually getting less done. While it feels like you may be completing more of your work each hour you stay, you're more than likely completing the same amount of work you would have turned in if you left earlier. How's that for a complete waste of time?
Last year, a Stanford researcher published a study, one with data which suggests productivity begins to fall around 50 hours per week. After 55 hours, it plummeted, with no measurable difference in work completed for those who worked 70 versus 60 hours that week. Those late nights at the office? They may not be adding much to your overall productivity.
That's not all the bad news. Those same late nights are not only killing your work output, they're slowly killing you.
Back in 1914, Henry Ford famously cut his workers' day from nine hours to eight. But it wasn't because he was trying to be nice, there was evidence which proved working a shorter day yielded more productive assembly output. After seeing this positive impact, other companies followed suit and by "1937, the 40-hour week was enshrined nationwide as part of the New Deal." Since the 1970s, we've slowly shifted away from that ideal.
If you're in a management position at your workplace, you have more control over this issue than you might think. The reason your employees are literally killing themselves at work is often the fear of being viewed by superiors as lacking focus or dedication. This theory is called "presenteeism", the need to be physically seen in the office.
Do you ever give verbal praise regarding how Curt is always the first to arrive and the last to leave? Or how about that Amber came to work on a Saturday to wrap up some items? While it may seem like you're acknowledging dedicated employees, you could be setting unrealistic, or even harmful expectations to the other workers. Try switching your praise by focusing on actual work completed, or when employees help each other rather than who stays the latest on a Friday evening. Another way to prevent your team from working too hard? Leave the office at reasonable times yourself. Overworking often cascades from the top of the office chain to the bottom, and your team may be looking to you for guidance regarding what's expected.
Tech companies realized happy employees = greater profits long ago, and have done whatever they can to retain their sought-after talent. They've put in nap rooms, enforced vacation time, and have even granted unlimited vacation days. While these may be extreme examples, it shows a level of dedication to attracting and retaining a satisfied workforce. We don't need to tell you that happy employees are more likely to stay where they are, which is more profitable for your business in the end.
While this shouldn't deter your workforce from the occasional late night if inspiration strikes, or if a deadline just has to be met. It should simply serve as a reminder that working above 40-50 hours on a consistent basis just isn't profitable. Now, finish up your work and head home at a reasonable time. Happy Friday everyone!
Kaitlan Whitteberry is a Magna Cum Laude graduate from the University of Missouri's journalism program, and currently focuses on iOFFICE press releases, software updates and related news.