Why long-hours culture is damaging your business - and what to do about it

What was once the exception has now become the rule; many employers expect their staff to work past 5.30pm and into the evening - and, in some cases, be virtually on call 24-7 thanks to advances in technology. The culture of working overtime as standard might initially appear beneficial to businesses. After all, they’re getting more output from their staff without the need to raise wages.

However, there’s a difference between expecting your employees to have a strong work ethic and working them into the ground. With Productivity Day coming up tomorrow, on 20th June, and Go Home On Time Day on 21st June, we’re looking at ways to get the most from your staff while keeping them happy, healthy and loyal to your business.

18 June 2018


What’s the issue with working long hours?

There have been many studies into the effects of working long days and the results aren’t pretty. Research from the Australian National University found that working over 39 hours a week poses a health risk. When you consider that many people also take on unpaid work once they get home from their jobs - such as childcare and running a household - the unfortunate truth is that many people are routinely compromising their health in order to simply earn a living.

But wouldn’t businesses suffer if employees worked fewer hours every week? Another study cited by The Guardian suggests not. According to one US researcher, most employees are productive for just four hours each day - the rest is spent procrastinating and worrying. This research suggests that the workday could be significantly cut back without affecting outputs or profits.

Charity Working Families hold their annual ‘Go Home On Time Day’ this week on 21st June, their research states that in the UK, four in 10 parents work full-time, and more than a third of those working part-time end up putting in extra hours each week. Nearly half say work gets in the way of spending time together as a family.

How can employers tackle this problem?

Speak to your staff: It might sound obvious but the quickest and most effective way to find out how your staff feel about their working hours is to speak to them about it. Hold regular one-to-one meetings, and ask your team to complete anonymous surveys - this should give you a clear look at their opinions on their working hours.

Flexible working: Adding flexible working to your employment package is a useful way to reduce stress levels by allowing staff to work in a way that suits them. Whether that’s giving them the opportunity to drop their hours or work remotely, offering a tailored case-by-case approach will allow your team to fit work around their personal commitments - and enjoy a healthier lifestyle as a result.

Lead by example: If your team sees you leaving every day at 5.30pm they’re more likely to feel comfortable following suit. The CEO at PepsiCo encourages his team leaders to ‘leave loudly’; if new staff members see the boss leaving to collect his kids at 4pm then they’ll understand that there’s no shame in making their family a priority, as well as their work. Support Go Home On Time Day this Thursday and encourage all your staff to plan their work this week so that the can leave on time!

Shape your culture for the better

A couple of years ago, we spoke to a manager who’d just taken over a new team. This group of staff had historically seen working late as a status symbol - they would brag about pulling all-nighters and ordering in late-night pizza and beer to the office. The new manager could see the long-term negative effects of this approach and decided to adjust the culture to allow for a healthier work-life balance. He made a point of encouraging staff to leave on time and asked them how he could help them get their work done so they could go home at a reasonable hour, he encouraged staff to celebrate leaving on time and getting their weekends back, and to see late night working as a failure to get the job done in the time it should have been.

It might take time for the glamorous image of working late to fade from an office culture, but instead of keeping drinks in the office for late workers why not encourage staff to leave on time to relax and socialise at the pub together?

For more on how flexible working could benefit your business, get in touch with us today kristal@flexology.co.uk