The negative effect of working long hours

in Lifestyle by Helen MacDougall
(35 Ratings)
effect of working long hours, negative effect of working long

Small business owners are notorious for working long hours and this can sometimes become part of the culture for employees as well. However, do these longer hours mean higher profits?

We can thank the Industrial Revolution and Dolly Parton for embedding the notion of a nine-to-five working day into our brains. However, the concept of working eight hours a day is alien to many employees. Australians donate 70 minutes of unpaid overtime each day to the Australian economy.

With businesses responding to increasingly competitive environments and the need to satisfy the demand of a 24/7 digital world, the 40-hour working week is a rare luxury for many offices. The economic downturn of recent years has also played a major part in redefining employee obligations and shifting our work patterns.

Employees who want to demonstrate their dedication and make themselves indispensable believe they can achieve this by going beyond the standard work hours. There is an increasing desire amongst workers to stay late into the night in order to meet demanding deadlines and prove their worth. Working late has almost become a badge of honour.

However, small businesses that allow or encourage a culture of working late or doing back-to-back shifts run the risk of creating unhappy employees, which may subsequently increase business expenses and reduce earnings. Extended operating hours do not always equate to bigger profits.

The real cost of working longer hours:

  • Absenteeism costs companies thousands each year – Despite recent research to the contrary, eight hours of sleep is widely regarded as optimal for peak performance the following day. Longer working hours leads to late nights and early starts, which is having a detrimental effect on employee health. Without sufficient sleep, a worker can develop a weaker immune system, leading to an increase in sick days.

  • Annual workplace bills rise with longer working hours – Working longer hours in the office runs up utility costs such as electricity, water and the consumption of other office provisions. Many businesses provide employees with complimentary food or transport when they work overtime, which also contributes to general expenses. By ensuring that your workers spend less overtime at the office, you will see your annual costs decrease.

  • Replacing staff can be a costly exercise – Workers who feel stressed can have a negative impact on the rest of the staff, who might not want to stay in a low-morale environment. The cost of staff turnover can be a huge hit for businesses not only in a financial sense, but also due to an increased workload for other employees.

A happy worker is a smarter worker

Employees that spend more time in the office and less time at home are likely to develop stress-related illnesses. However, when workers are happy, they are smarter and more competent.

Shawn Achor, an award-winning Harvard lecturer on positive psychology, describes how your brain is 31 per cent more productive when positive, and can lead to a 37 per cent increase in sales.

People who work more, spend less

Henry Ford was a staunch advocate of shorter working hours, and put this into practice across his factories. His opinion wasn’t based on a humanitarian causes, it was mainly commercial common sense.

Ford recognised that when consumers work longer hours, they have less free time. When they have less free time, they spend less money. In this way, working longer hours has a direct impact on the economy as a whole.

The importance of change

Business owners should take time to examine the culture they have developed in their business and make changes if they see too many employees working too many extra hours. If your workers aren’t meeting their deadlines in the working day, there’s something wrong with their work volume or the deadlines being promised. Employ more people so that office hours can be reduced and you could see that your expenses decline as a result.

Adopting flexi-time and remote working practices is also a cost-efficient way of helping employees achieve a positive work/life balance. These options will keep them happy and healthy while maintaining the same levels of productivity, reducing costs and growing profits.

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With six years of Advertising behind her and a commendable portfolio in tow, Helen decided to follow her passion for writing and set up as a Freelance Writer in 2012. Her writing shop, Copyfox, offers copy for predominantly digital channels - optimised website copy, website content and articles, eMail marketing activity and social media content and management. As well as a writer, Helen is also a Digital Producer, with a strong technical knowledge of online strategy, digital design and build.

Poll Results

How many hours do you work on your business each week?

  • 20-30
  • 30-40
  • 40-50
  • 50-60

Poll Results

How many hours do you work on your business each week?

20-30: 18%
30-40: 18%
40-50: 23%
50-60: 41%