Why it’s important your employees leave on time
I imagine it gets brought up most Thursday nights and every Friday morning, “having a 4 day working week would be the best”, “the Netherlands are doing it” and the classic “I know I could get as much done in 4 days as I do in 5”. But for some the very idea of less time in the office is completely out of the question. Start-ups, entrepreneurs and the self-made hustler, who would “rather work 24/7 that slave 9-5”, “success is not for the lazy” and “if you’re going through hell, keep going”. I mean, I get it, kind of… You need to work to be successful and yes ideally loving your work as well, cool, nothing wrong with that, but you can’t neglect the fundamental things you need to live. “Long working hours erode a person’s mental and physical health, because it leaves less time to eat well and look after themselves properly.” It gets said time and time again, in a 1000 different ways, but yet the culture of the #Hustle still persists.
Looking at Silicon Valley, the place to be when it comes to tech starts-up and the ‘bootstrappers’ lifestyle and ethos that “working 9-5 is for losers”, you need to be willing to give up everything for success. Young entrepreneurs are told that starting a company is for a certain type of person, usually young men and the hardship should be a part of the allure. With figureheads like Gary Vaynerchuck who spit books about success with titles like ‘Crushing it!’ who tell you that if you’re not succeeding, it’s because you’re not doing enough for long enough to be successful. “If you want bling bling, if you want to buy the jets? Work.”
Software Developer David Hansson explains in his recent article about the root of the problems, starting with the venture capitalists, “It’s not hard to understand why such a mythology serves the interest of money men who spread their bets wide and only succeed when unicorns emerge. Of course they’re going to desire fairy-tale sacrifices. There’s little to no consequence to them if the many fall by the wayside, spent to completion trying to hit that home run. Make me rich or die tryin’.” Hasson said that the workaholic ethos persists because it justifies the extreme wealth created for a tiny group of elite techies. “It’s grim and exploitative.” The propaganda always comes from the top and filters down creating a snowball effect for the workers who are saddled with ensuring the organisation succeeds.
In discussions of overworking it’s hard to not talk about Japan; you see images of people asleep on trains, at desks, leaning against walls and often just where they fall.
They’re one of the world leaders in technology and innovation, but they have some of the longest working hours in the developed world and also one of the highest rates for suicide. The term ‘Karoshi’, literally describes death attributed to overworking. Christmas day 2015, a 24 year old working for the advertising agency Dentsu committed suicide. It was discovered that she was barely leaving enough time to sleep after working more than 100 hours of overtime in the month leading up to her death. The news triggered a national debate about Japan’s working culture and forced Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to address the fact that employees are often forced to put in long hours to demonstrate their dedication, sacrificing their mental and physical health. Japan has recognised the nation’s suicide had become critical and in 2017 the government approved a plan seeking to reduce the number of suicides over the coming decade by 30%.
The data tells us that working long hours improves neither productivity nor creativity. In fact, a recent study by Erin Reid, a professor from Boston University’s Questrom of Business, concluded that managers couldn’t tell the difference between an employee who worked 80 hours a week and an employee who lied and pretended to work 80 hours a week. So, not only will production not increase, the overworked will become a hindrance when they can’t work effectively. We need time out, time to wind down, see family and friends, eat, sleep and enjoy life to have the ability to come in and give a job 100%.
So, what should we be doing?
Now, don’t get me wrong if you love going to work it means you’re in the right job and succeeding, which is excellent, congrats! But working shouldn’t be a 24 hour a day lifestyle, regardless of your position in an organisation. Bob Chapman, the CEO of global engineering company Barry-Wehmiller, talks about how much of an impact organisations have on their employees, “The person you report to at work can be more important to your health than your family doctor. We want to send people home safe, healthy, and fulfilled all three dimensions.” The Australian National Universities new research has found that “People who work more than 39 hours a week are putting their health at risk.”
In order to combat the #Hustle mindset, the buy-in needs to be organisation-wide; from the front-line to the SLT. In a recent study conducted by Total jobs they found that “A third of bosses (31%) expect workers to stay later than their contractual hours” but that “Workers (33%) and employers (36%) say shorter working hours would boost productivity.” Listening to the people who work with and for you is imperative. They are the driving force for your organisation, so if they’re not motivated, they’re tired, they’ve missed their kids 4th football match in a row, they never make it home to eat dinner with their family, and they will not be working to the best of their abilities.
A supportive, understanding and emotionally intelligent workplace will see the best from their employees who feel appreciated, and understood. With all the data around wellbeing and productivity it’s no surprise that research has also shown that our Emotional Intelligence has a direct link to our success and performance at work. Leaders with strong EI create more engaging work environments in which performance and potential is maximised through enhanced morale (due to greater empowerment and ongoing development of employees) and employee well-being.