Corporate Strategy

Work until you drop: how the long-hours culture is killing us

parent working on laptop

Employees today all over the world are under constant pressure to work longer hours and take less time off, but this push towards productivity does more harm than good. Believe it or not 9 out of 10 Brits admitted to dragging themselves to work even when they fell sick. Over half the population admits to having taken no sick days at all in the last 6 months.

Taking less time off might seem like it will result in greater success for the company and the employees alike, but the opposite is true. Not only are workers more prone to illness and stress, but overworking employees is shown to lead to less success.

The long-hour culture might just be killing all of us, from high-level executives to entry-level employees. In this talent crisis, it’s important for those responsible for employee welfare to find new ways to combat burnout and promote a healthy work-life balance in the workplace. Let’s examine the real-life effects of this non-stop work culture.

The reality of today’s workplace

The United Kingdom boasts the longest work week in Europe. Today, the Working Time Regulations implement just how much time can legally spend working, but this wasn’t always the case. Workers in the UK, on average, spend 43 hours a week working. That’s 3 hours over the EU average.

Unfortunately, those who aren’t willing to put in the long hours or skipped sick days are seen as less committed to their career and the company’s success. This leads to harsh pressure to work long hours, never take days off, and work till you drop. Half of all employees feel their workplace is unhealthy, and this points to the growing problem of worker burnout.

Today, overtime and extra hours are expected. Taking time off for sick days and holidays feels like it’s frowned upon if you want to get ahead. This is the reality of the workplace today, and something has to change soon if we want to salvage our collective wellness and health.

Overworking Leads to Burnout

We all know this extra work is not sustainable long-term. We’ve all felt the stress after a seemingly endless workweek. This chronic stress is shown to be bad for employees. Employees who are overworked lose the ability to stay productive, and they’re more likely to look elsewhere for workplace fulfilment.

46% of surveyed HR leaders cited employee burnout as half of their annual employee churn volume. This statistic means it’s time for HR professionals to combat the issue of burnout head-on if they want to retain their best employees. Overworking leads to lower productivity, and that’s a problem all businesses need to take seriously.

Changing the perspective

HR leaders need to call for a shift in focus from productivity to engagement across professionals. Happy employees who aren’t overworked are 12% more productive, and this pays off in significant ways for organisations. Working fewer hours also means fewer errors and less exhaustion amongst all levels of employees.

Another way companies can combat burnout is by finding new ways to address the workday. Flexible work hours and remote workers are on the rise, as are generous mental health absence days, such as duvet days. Websites such as this one make it easy for employees to track their own hours and progress, and that allows everyone more freedom to work when they’re most productive. This is a win/win more businesses should get behind if they want to keep top performers.

While today’s workday was established to protect the health of workers, we’ve seen a recent shift back towards unsustainable methods of the past. Not only does overworking lead to burnout and low employee satisfaction, but it doesn’t actually help the company succeed. Together, we need to find new ways to address the culture of long-hours before it kills us.