Employees who work crazy hours aren’t necessarily more productive. There is no advantage to employees working long hours and it may even be bad for their physical and mental health.
In Rework, a new book from the founders of 37signals, the authors call this “workaholism” and assert that it creates more problems than it solves them. Staying at work for long hours doesn’t automatically mean that more work is getting done or especially that good work is getting done.
Those who will work long hours will compensate by taking more breaks during the day or they become tired and increase the risk of making mistakes or becoming disorganized. Once that happens, they enter a bad cycle and have to work longer hours to compensate. And what about the pressure it puts on the other employees that leave at a normal time and feel bad or inadequate? As mentioned in Rework, ‘That leads to guilt and poor morale all around.”
Fortunately, we are starting to notice a shift with managers encouraging their employees to leave after their regular work hours to go home, see their family, visit with friends go to the gym, take to piano lessons, practice yoga or whatever it is they enjoy doing.
I’ve been on both sides through my career.
In the first 10 years, I was completely devoted to my work and probably didn’t have much of a life. I would get in the office very early and come out at 7pm every night. Completely exhausted and stressed out, I would go home most of the time to rest and prepare for the next day. And during the weekend, I would try to relax knowing that another intense week was around the corner. I always felt tired when I wasn’t working.
Today is very different. I am married and a mother of 2 young kids. I’m an athlete. I take time to get involved in with projects like with my HR association and as a member of the board for my children’s daycare.
I know the kind of work I use to do back then and what I’m able to do now. Because I am able to manage my hours, it’s very clear to me that I’m a better HR professional and my perspective on things has changed for the better. I react to things differently and what used to be important isn’t anymore. I’m a better judge when confronted with a complex and stressful situation and I’m surely not as emotionally involved.
I really love my job but it also doesn’t define me. When I’m in the office, I am efficient. I don’t waste time and make sure to do the things that are most important. And I have more energy and feel more organized in my head.
You don’t need to work long hours to be a great HR professional or whatever it is you do as a profession. What you need is time to stand back from work once in a while to be able to come back strong. And don’t you want to set a good example throughout your company?
So, what are you still doing at work at 6pm reading this blog?
Go home to see your family and friends, get involved in community work, learn to play hockey, start a new home project, take time with your love ones, enjoy a good book in your favorite couch . . . get the idea?