According to Psychology Today, one in six workers in North America and the U.K. are working 60-hour workweeks. While some might look at these numbers and think these committed employees are adding to the company’s bottom line, this actually may not be good for business. Here’s why:
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1. Strategy takes a back seat
Because of an overwhelming workload, with everything needing to be done yesterday, employees are forced to create their own priorities. They may no longer working in concert with the company’s strategic direction, or even thinking about it, but instead are running from fire to fire and prioritizing individually to simply get through the day.
2. Morale is lower
When an organization allows a culture where working 60 hours a week is expected, morale becomes lower. And it may not even be apparent at first. In these situations employees often compare horror stories. Like taking a wound on the battlefield, it becomes an informal contest to “complain” about how many hours were worked last week. But believe me, people are privately feeling demoralized and are suffering to keep up. Plus, as they try tirelessly to do everything, they begin producing sub-optimally and overall quality suffers.
3. Executives subsidize stakeholders on the backs of their employees
By allowing a 60-hour workweek culture, executives end up subsidizing their stakeholders on the backs of their employees. Unpaid overtime and fewer staff on the books may result in rising profit margins but this actually creates a false business model. Don’t be fooled, there are hidden costs to this approach including increased staff turnover, lower quality output and perhaps higher absenteeism due to stress related illnesses.
Not-for-profit businesses are particularly vulnerable to this type of thinking because their mandates and programs are typically urgent (think: wars, life-threatening disease, natural disasters). But I am now seeing it creeping more and more into the for-profit sector as well. Organizations are focusing on a short-term, quarter-to-quarter, month-to-month orientation in order to deliver stakeholder results, but it’s coming at the expense of their greatest asset.
What I know to be true is that the best performance comes from happy, healthy employees who are motivated and able to use their full capabilities. Employee engagement is critical. If an organization is mistreating (as I suggest) its employees by requiring them to work 60 or more hours a week- every week, even the best employees will become disengaged.