In the fast-paced world we live in today, stress is something most people experience on a day to day basis. It’s not only unhealthy and damaging to the individual, but it also affects their workplace and households as a result. With technology serving as a tool to stay connected, it has now become harder for people to disconnect from work for a few hours during their personal time, which leads them to work for longer hours, and the pressure of performance becomes heavier. The work-life balance is not well defined anymore and working long hours is now the norm for those employees who want to advance in their careers.
With people over-working all around the world, and all of them experiencing stress at some point in their careers, how does their stress affect the companies they work for?
A study by Stanford University on the productivity of working hours found that on average when a person works more than 55 hours a week, their productivity drastically declines. Economist John Pencavel says that the optimum and most efficient number of hours is 40 to 48 hours per week. Below that number, there might be potential productivity lost due to the number of hours worked, but anything above it will risk losing productivity due to burn out and stress from employees.
As people keep working longer and longer hours for a prolonged period of time, their health both mentally and physically deteriorates. Everything starts to worsen in what looks like a chain reaction. The longer hours decrease productivity, increases stress, which then results in the risk of depression, weight gain and the financial cost for the companies increase due to health care. A study published in 2012 by PLoS ONE found that people working over 11 hours a day almost double their chances at major depression. All of this ends up affecting not only the individual but also their close relationships, and the overall company they’re working for.
The price paid in Health-care for workers also increases when employees are overworked. The incremental annual health-care cost incurred by companies just for workplace stress is around $190 billion in the United States annually and it represents from 5 to 8 percent of the national spending on health care. At a first glance, working longer hours might seem ideal for companies, as they believe more hours equals more work and therefore more profit. When in reality, the evidence suggests that it is counterproductive for companies. Not only do they lose productivity, but they lose money as a result. Work stress created by working longer hours is a very large contributor to many of the health problems and the rising costs seen by companies.
As an example, Japan is one of the countries where working overtime is expected, with people overworking for more than 80 hours a week. As a result, according to the OECD Compendium of productivity indicators, Japan has the lowest productivity among the G-7 nations. It is so common for people to burn out due to work-related stress in Japan, that they even have a word for it. The word “Karoshi” to them exactly translates to “death by overwork”.
It is clear that overworking is unhealthy for employees and very costly for companies. So, what are some ways in which employees can reduce the amount of stress in the workplace?
Begin by forming positive relationships with employees and allowing everyone to have enough time to rest and take care of themselves each day. The healthier they are and the better they feel, the more their productivity at work will increase!
Lead by example! Begin by taking lead and encouraging your team to remain physically active as well. A great tool to suggest to your team to keep track of their health is to download apps that track steps, sleep schedule, and eating habits. Some great apps are MyFitnessPal, Iphone’s own health app, or Samsung’s ‘health’. Or it is also possible to take it a step further and invest in a fitness watch like Garmin, which measures breathing, sleep, footsteps, and even gives gym guide routines and music storage.
By prioritizing everyone's health and promote healthy habits, the company's performance will increase. Instead of encouraging employees on working longer, encourage them on working smarter by reducing the overtime at work, and instead promote healthy habits during that time.