Do you find yourself with little time for family, friends, holidays and other leisurely pursuits? Are you expected to take calls and respond to emails at all hours of the day? Are long hours of work equated with working hard at your company?
If yes is your answer to any of these questions, you’re most definitely overworked.
Today, the dividing line between work and personal life is wearing thin, helped no doubt by the fact that everyone is just a call or click away.
Employees are now expected to answer to office at all times of the day or night. This leads to stress and exhaustion, as well as a terribly skewed work-life balance.
But just because employees are available on call at all hours of the day doesn’t necessarily result in greater efficiency. On the contrary, most studies show that a slanted work-life balance can be counterproductive and result in loss of output. In an August 2015 Harvard Business Review article, overwork has been described as a “story of diminishing returns: keep overworking and you’ll progressively work more stupidly on tasks that are increasingly meaningless”. According to research by Stanford University, employee output falls sharply after a 50-hour work week and nosedives further after 55 hours—so much so that an employee who puts in 70 hours produces nothing more with those extra 15 hours. Thus, contrary to the popular perception, putting in more hours in office does not make one a better worker.
A good work-life balance, on the other hand, is profitable for both employees and employers. A case in point is the rise in output of factories in the 19th century when work hours were reduced to 10, and later, eight hours a day.
Some of the reasons why overwork impacts productivity are:
Too much work is typically accompanied by stress and exhaustion, impacting sleep patterns and eating habits. It can also cause mental disturbance, heart disease and loss of memory among other ailments. All of these factors have a negative effect on a person’s physical and mental well-being, may force s/he to take more sick leave than actually required and result in a diminished capacity for work in the long term.
Stress and the resultant lack of sleep affect a person’s capacity to establish a firm grip on situations and make sound decisions. It also takes a toll on one’s ability to relate socially to colleagues, be sensitive to other people’s needs and control one’s emotions—all increasingly important skills in the modern workplace.
Vitality and high performance in the corporate space can sometimes become euphemisms for an adrenalin rush driven by lack of rest, and can result in some very dubious decision making. As one expert says, sleep deprivation can be downright dangerous and the antithesis of intelligent management.
Overwork tends to lead to confusion. Too much work can leave employees with a lack of perspective, unable to see the bigger picture. Hours can be spent toiling away on insignificant tasks while the more important matters are left unaddressed.
Overworked employees have less time for family, friends and pursuing any personal interests. That can in turn damage intimate relationships and adversely affect the growth and development of children. Meeting friends, attending children’s functions at school or devoting time to a hobby will all go towards helping build a fulfilling life, leaving you happier both outside of and at work.