Are you chained to your laptop, constantly checking your email, or finding time on the weekends to catch up on some work? If so, you might just be a workaholic. Contrary to some corporate beliefs, that’s probably not a good thing.
In today’s fast-paced world, companies might see the benefit of having employees plugged-in 24/7 as giving them a leg up on the competition. But is it worth it if those employees aren’t turning in their best work or burning out quicker?
In fact, history shows us the importance of the 40 hour work week. Back in the 1900s, Ford Motor Company tested out various work hours to find the sweet spot for employee productivity. What they found after exhaustive in-house testing was the dominance of the 40 hour work week for employee morale and efficiency. Sure, productivity went up when hours were raised to 60 a week, but it soon came crashing down when workers burnt out scant weeks later.
Yet more than a hundred years later, we’re still learning this same lesson over and over again. Recently, news outlets were shocked to learn that Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of social media giant Facebook, left the office everyday at 5:30. A working mom leaving on time (not even particularly early!) to spend more time with her kids!? Shocking! The fact that such a benign piece of information was even considered newsworthy tells us everything we need to know about our current workaholic culture.
In case you wanted more proof that we’re all turning into burning-the-midnight-oil junkies though, look no further than a recent study by researchers from Norway and the UK. The researchers tested nearly 12,000 workers across industries and discovered modern workers’ addiction is getting worse. Developed as a seven question survey, the Bergen Work Addiction Scale asks respondents to answer questions about their work life, stress levels, and leisure time. What the scale found was that more and more employees are valuing work over their personal lives and thinking increasingly about the office in their off hours.
This might seem like a win for employers, if not employees, but that’s an illusion. Employees suffering from work addiction are more likely to be highly stressed. Due to all the extra hours and mental anguish, these workers have a higher rate of burnout. In addition, lead study psychologist Dr. Cecilie Andreassen of the University of Bergen says that workaholics often suffer from a variety of health problems. These range from the often-cited stress, to lack of exercise, and even insomnia.
If you’re not convinced that an overworked employee is a less productive employee yet, let’s take a trip back in the time machine again. Research in the 1980s showed the hour by hour breakdown in productivity. Employees’ best work is typically turned in between hours two and six. So if your employee is spending a little too much time in the morning on breakfast, you will still most likely see the report you need done by the end of the day. However, by hour eight an employee’s’ best work is already behind them. By hour 9 fatigue begins to set in and the work you get will be delivered at a fraction of their capacity. As time moves on, productivity continues to drop until hours 10 to 12 see a worker hitting full scale exhaustion.
So while it might seem like a good idea to have employees putting in more hours on the surface, the truth is that the work handed in will likely be of a lesser quality. What employers should be looking for are employees who work hard while at work, but feel justified in checking out at the end of the day.
Sure, the employee that sends you work emails at 12 a.m. might seem like a superstar. Just like a star, however, this employee will probably burn bright and fade fast. It’s important for today’s workers to have a good home-life balance and to avoid the pitfalls of work addiction. It turns out, being a workaholic doesn’t pay… for anyone.
What do you think? What are some ways you’ve seen workaholics negative impact business? And what are some ways to keep from giving in to work addiction? Let us know!