HR Management, Talent Management

It Doesn’t Pay For Your Employees to be Workaholics

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Working long hours was once the norm for Americans in the workforce, but with the help of technology, working around the clock is becoming the new epidemic.

As our smart phones travel on our hips and even enjoy a special spot in our beds at night, the emails buzz like text messages at all times of the day — and workaholics tend to them.

The true definition of a workaholic is someone who feels constant pressure to work in order to fulfill an innate need. A workaholic’s obsession with work prevents them from maintaining healthy relationships and deters them from achieving a prosperous work-life balance. Just like any “ism,” workaholism is an abnormal state caused by excess and the consequences have proven to outweigh the benefits.

On call 24/7 doesn’t work in the long run

Though you may secretly be jumping for joy because your employees are constantly on call and tending to clients’ needs at all hours, the relationship of time and productivity does not correlate over the long term.

Over 150 years of research proves that long hours kills profits, productivity, and employees. The 40-hour work-week was a knowledgeable business decision embedded in America’s history for three generations, but how soon we have forgotten the ensured efficiency and employee morale it guaranteed.

For every extra hour worked, there is a direct cost to your employees. By working more hours in a day, many employees make trade-offs without considering their long-term effects. It is all too common for a workaholic’s priority list to quickly become disheveled as their work-related items drive the disappearance of previously meaningful tasks.

It takes teamwork to draw the line

Missing dinner with the family or your child’s soccer game may initially be justified as a one-time decision, but these choices often become habits. Furthermore, devoting an excessive amount of time to work can affect eating habits as your busy employees choose to skip meals in their entirety or pick up fast food on their way home. Lastly, a lack of sleep is the final ingredient leading workaholics down the road of poor mental and physical health.

When it comes to the 24/7 working culture in the U.S., employees may be their own worst enemy according to Leslie A. Perlow, the Konosuke Matsushita professor of leadership at Harvard Business School. Perlow conducted some research involving a team of high-powered, workaholic consultants to see if they could disconnect after working hours and also discover the results of their decisions.

The key to her research was committing as a team. With the joint effort to solidify time off, the consultants communicated more, supported one another, and held each other accountable for connecting after working hours.

The goal: productive, happy employees

All employees want to be the over-achiever constantly impressing other co-workers and bosses with the amount of work they can get done; therefore, employees must work as a team to draw the line and set a new norm.

Remind your employees of their choice to change the way things are going. Encourage them to separate their work and personal lives by tending to midnight emails as soon as they step into the office the next morning. If your company jumps on board to help maintain positive balances, you can expect high productivity levels over a long time span and more importantly, happier employees.

Have you noticed low-quality work as a result of work addiction? How can you help to stop the 24/7 working culture?

Josh Tolan is the CEO of Spark Hire , a video powered hiring network that connects job seekers and employers through video resumes and online interviews. Connect with Josh and Spark Hire on Twitter @SparkHire and Facebook.
  • http://twitter.com/intentionalcomm Louise Altman

    Josh,
    Important topic in a chronically workaholic culture. The “evidence” is abundantly clear yet people continue to work this way (mentally for some it is 24/7). No question that fear is the driver – and that structural norms within organizations reinforce these “habits.” 

    Statistics show that most of the unprecedented post recession productivity gains (mostly benefiting profit margins) have come at the expense of employees working longer and harder. 
    The only way to take the edge off the fear (a key to changing habits) is through peer support and  modeling from the top. 

    With what is emerging from neuroscience about optimal functioning of the brain and the absolute need for rest, no responsible (and smart) leader should be supporting these work schedules. 

  • http://twitter.com/AllThingsBiz Josh Tolan

    Great comments Louise, I definitely agree! Sure the company might be able to get some short-term gains from employees working harder and longer than ever before, but those gains are going to be off-set by less happy employees. If employees are unhappy they’ll eventually be less productive, even if they are worried about the economy. Plus, as soon as jobs do return, the company’s unhappy and overworked employees are going to flee for better working conditions. 

    So even though it may seem like a good idea for employees to be workaholics, in the long-term it will mean losing great talent. No one wants to be under a constant state of burnout after all.

  • Jacque Vilet

    There are 2 types of worka holics —- people that impose it on themselves and other that have the company imposing it on them.    We have the seen an increase in the latter due to the recession and people having to take on more than one job.   The former —— we have always had.   These are the people that live to work —- not work to live.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GUQFL6BM4VHEPONPXMXMV2U3WU Francisco

    Great comment by Jaques Vilet.  I know of many they return to work to rest or recover from an exhausting week end or time off.

  • Patricia

    Louise’s comment “Statistics show that most of the unprecedented post recession productivity gains (mostly benefiting profit margins) have come at the expense of employees working longer and harder.” spurred a thought.  What if employee compensation was reported in financial statements as an asset rather than an expense?  Business owners and senior managers (employers) may then take a very different view and spearhead the changes to habits.  Although I am not necessarily comparing people to machines, business owners would not normally expect to run a valuable piece of equipment 24/7 without some downtime and maintenance.  Profit at the expense of human well-being is short-sighted leadership.

    • http://faleafine.com NEENZ

      This is a great perspective, to view the human as an asset and not an expense. Sounds so logical, yet it’s so uncommon. As a workaholic in recovery, I can attest that all things improve once there’s work-life balance. Get on the scale folks and balance out! :)

  • Sudipto chakravorty

    ideally the labor should come out willingly . as long as it is  given at its own volition, it is actually an enjoyable entity at the deliverer’s end , however it may appear physically or mentally exhausting . if I am enjoying long working  & there is no extra expense for that , I am probably breaking no  norms .   But yes  in the process ,if my health is put in stake , there can be a reasonable objection to it or not giving requisite time to my family/ friend , there can also be an   objection
     
    there is substantial variation from man to man in terms of amount of delivery , willingly in a span of time . some people are happy being  lazy whereas others enjoy being active . it all depends on the kind of energy balance they have . by Indian thought process it is called  SATWA  RAJAS TAMAS form  of energy. man is made with an intermix of these three .
     
    therefore in a business world , where there are targets to be  achieved ,services /products to be delivered  in specific time,  —-      different working norms have been set —  like say 8 hrs of work a day ……. at least one day off after every 6 day s of work….   so on & so forth .
     
    what is probably needed is slowly but surely setting  many more such standards (rules & laws )  for work , rest , leave enjoyment  e.t.c e.t.c . world wide .
     
    There will always be workaholics who are genuinely ,in extreme love with their work. There will others who will be lethargic & there will be some who will be working more to show off . ideals will be always few & far between  .
     

  • Aaa

    workalotic people don’t want to stay in their position for a long time. They will quit as soon as they didn’t need to work even if they used to be high achievers and carreer oriented.

  • Jappreet sethi

    Without doubt, wellbeing is the ultimate objective of human existence. Paradoxically, we often wind up surrendering well-being in order to earn money, and then spend a major part of the earnings in attempts to regain it. These efforts are invariably fruitless – so why do we do it? More often than not, the only real beneficiary of the eternal rat race is the healthcare industry

    http://www.humanresourcesblog.in/2011/11/how-to-manage-stress-and-regain-well-being/

    Jappreet Sethi

  • Subir

    There is no correlation between between workholism and effectiveness. You can always see people busy working late immediately you decide him/her a talent or a important employee for the organiation. Working late or busyness at work should not be a criteria for performance. Many a time a silent employes perform his job much effectively within time and does not show workholism.

  • http://twitter.com/dg_the_muse Dasha Golubeva

    I wanted to share some stats to support your point that working extra hours has become habitual. In our recent survey, we discovered that around 40% of people who overwork, think they have a good work-life balance (http://www.wrike.com/blog/Snapshot-Work-Life-Balance-Realities-Wrike-s-New-Fascinating-Infographic). So, it seems they don’t mind working extra hours… By the way, it’s 87% of the respondents who said they overwork regularly.