Small Business News from 4imprint
Back in 1914 the Ford Motor Company imposed a limit to the working day of eight-hours. Henry Ford made this decision when he noticed that productivity started to dip amongst his workforce after eight hours.

Although that was 100 years ago, far more recent studies also show an inverse relationship between motivation and the number of hours an employee works each day. Increase an employee’s hours by 10-20% above and beyond that of a typical working week and productivity generally decreases.

A survey conducted by Wrike (a project management software company) revealed 87% of the 2000 people questioned said they are overworked with nearly 40% claiming to overwork by more than five hours a week.

Couple this with research from the team at Employers for Work-Life Balance who say 25% of the UK population suffer from a sleep disorder resulting in daytime sleepiness and it’s perhaps fair to conclude these factors will very likely impact on both on productivity at work and the health of your employees.This isn’t to say that there isn’t a time for long hours and occasional overtime, but how can we help to manage some of the negative effects that regularly working long hours can have on employees? Read on for some guidance.

The effects of being overworked
Long hours at work typically come at the expense of family life, health and rest. Achieving balance is certainly not an easy task but it is important 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 leave 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 and increased 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 and suffering fatigue are more likely to make mistakes. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) report that fatigue has been implicated in 20% of road accidents and is said to cost the UK £115-240 million a year in work related accidents.

Love ’em don’t lose ’em
If your employees are overworked and stressed, here are some simple things that can be implemented to prevent burnout:

Encourage breaks: We are human beings… not machines. Our minds can only focus on a given task for between 90 and 120 minutes. After that, our brains require a short break in order to regain focus. Encourage employees to stand up, stretch and take a very short break every hour or so.

Close to three out of every four employees report feeling more energized after returning from a holiday. However the CIPD report that up to a third of British workers fail to take their full annual leave and some admit to using their annual leave to take training or other work related courses. Celebrate holidays and reward employees for taking time to relax and enjoy some ‘down’ time – luggage tags or a passport wallet would come in handy when preparing for a break. Plus, a small send-off gift can be a great way to promote the benefits of a holiday.

Celebrate wins: Lots of little wins (whether that’s orders or a nomination for an award) 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 mug printed with a thank you message or organise a lunch funded by the company. 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 quirky stress shape printed with a motivational message that would raise a smile and perhaps take the edge off a particularly stressful period.

Remember, overworked employees are unlikely to be more productive. In fact, the result is typically lower quality work at a higher cost – and the cost is health, happiness and work-life balance.

Source/Further Reading
Eight-Hour Day.” Wikipedia.
Snapshot of Work-Life Balance Realities.” Wrike.
“Work & Rest, the Delicate Balance” Employers for Work-Life Balance.
Why is fatigue important?” Health & Safety Executive.
Third of workers not taking full holiday entitlement.” The CIPD.