A national study released in May indicated that more than half of U.S. employees feel overworked or overwhelmed at least some of the time.
Around 70 percent report they wish they had a different job. No surprise there. We’ve seen these effects creeping in for decades. Reports are indicating that society is money-obsessed, lacking family time, and worked until they lose the spark they once had for their jobs. Employers have been warned—don’t overwork your employees; it’ll cost you. So, what are the actual costs of forcing employee endurance, and how can they be avoided?
According to a study linking work-induced fatigue to adverse health effects, there is a direct correlation between lack of recovery and increased incidence of health and safety problems. Employees are neglecting self-care. This is indicated by the aforementioned national study—22 percent of employees say they’re working 7 days a week, 25 percent say they don’t utilize all of their vacation time, and 25 percent say they’re working 50 hours or more per week. Many attribute this shift in company and societal culture to technology. With mobile phones, we are accessible at all times. Many push themselves to be resilient, to extend their work schedules.
The Harvard Business Review reports that workers are misunderstanding what it means to be resilient. Resilience means working hardest for the longest, right? Wrong. Resilience means working hard, recovering, and only then getting back to work. HBR roots this notion in biology. Homeostasis is the ability of the brain to constantly restore and sustain well-being. If the body is working twice as hard to make up for physical and cognitive exhaustion, mental and physical resources are wasted. Companies often fail to account for these wasted mental and physical resources as monetary losses. However, lack of employee recovery costs companies $62 billion a year in lost productivity. Companies and employees alike need to focus on building true resilience, which means allowing recovery time.
Recovery includes allowing short breaks throughout a work day, shifting attention between work tasks, and taking appropriate leave. In many high-stress jobs, the work doesn’t end when you leave the office. Therefore, HBR recommends creating tech-free zones, having lunch away from your desk, taking all of your paid time off, and other methods of recovery. For employers, it’s important to honor your employees’ time off, whether lunch breaks or vacation. Employers can encourage recovery time by using and enforcing break policies, tech-free times, and encouraging use of vacation time. This increases their productivity. Employers should evaluate their employees’ workload scales, and work to enforce a culture of teamwork to dole out responsibilities without overloading employees.
A shift in focus will create an environment that supports high-value work. At the Goosmann Law Firm, we strive to protect our employees from this workplace exhaustion. If you think your business is falling into this pitfall or you would like to learn how to prevent employee exhaustion, call one of our experienced Sioux City attorneys or visit any one of our three locations.