Working Late Increases Chances of Illness, Studies Show, Here’s How to Stop

Ambition is often the driving force behind our careers. We want to make more money, have better responsibilities, and have a greater impact on our team and our world. This can mean that sometimes, we put in the extra time and effort to complete a project that goes above and beyond expectations. While this may be good in the short-term, garnering praise and showcasing your dedication, the idea that working more hours will lead to better performance was proved to be false by Ford Motor Company in the 1990s. 


Ford studied the performance of its employees for those who regularly worked overtime, those who sometimes worked overtime, and those who most commonly worked 40 hours per week, and found that the middle man outperformed both groups. This was largely attributed to fatigue, personal stresses, growing unrest with the company, and general discontent in the group that worked excessive hours as well as a decline in quality of work. This means that, even though you may work more hours, you are not necessarily generating better or even more results than working the minimum each week. The study found that working 60 hours per week had better results up until the fourth week, after which productivity significantly declined for the weeks following. 


Accenture, a research firm, studied over 4,000 businesses and their employees and found what many already knew: employees are the driving force behind companies. Generally, the better your employees perform, the better the company does. The study found that, above all else including money, employees set a healthy work-life balance as the measure of success. 


Numerous other studies have found that working more than 10 hours per day is associated with a 60% increase in the risk of cardiovascular issues, and those working over 50 hours per week show very little results and absenteeism doubles. Those working over 60 hours per week see a further 25% decrease in productivity. 


These studies show why companies need to focus on developing a healthy work-life balance that maximizes productivity. 


If you are having trouble keeping work between the 9-5 hours, here are some tips. 


Sit Less, Move More

If you feel like the days drag on, and you have difficulty focusing on one task at each time, you may be better to take breaks throughout the day to let your mind calm down. An excellent way to do this while ensuring an almost-immediate boost in productivity is by working out, according to one study. The study in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management noted that participants who took part in workday exercise showed a 72 percent increase in productivity and time management in the same day. However, when deciding on your workout, keep in mind that low-intensity aerobic exercises are more effective at improving productivity than high-intensity exercise. 


Manage Expectations

Saying no can be difficult, especially to someone in authority. We don’t want to disappoint our bosses and colleagues, and want to consistently meet deadlines and exceed expectations, but you will find yourself struggling if you have too much on your plate. If you find yourself constantly working overtime to meet expectations, chances are you need to reevaluate your workload. This means genuinely considering the amount of time it takes to complete each task and being honest with yourself and boss about what can and can’t be expected. In most cases, your boss will understand the science behind productivity and allow you to reorganize your tasks accordingly. One study in the Harvard Business Review found that bosses are, more often than not, complicit in the underperformance and failures of employees by making it difficult for them to be honest and transparent in their abilities. Managing expectations also means managing your own. You have to be honest with yourself in what you can and cannot complete each day, week, and month. This often means sitting down and planning out your schedule with honest and fair periods of time for each task. You want to be able to do your job well and fast, which can be difficult when you know there is a never-ending mountain of paperwork ready as soon as you’re finished. Setting out a timetable can show you the exact amount of work and time you have, and can motivate you to keep checking things off your list. If possible, also include a clear definition or outline of what exactly the finished product will look like to you, so as to not keep returning to the same item to rework it. By doing so, you’ll know when you’ve finished and your brain will know to stop stressing over it. 


Streamline Communications

If you find yourself working on a project, but have to constantly switch back and forth between your email and Microsoft Teams, chances are you’re distracted. Communication is key for any organization to thrive, but even better than that, streamlining communication can reduce the time spent per day on sending emails and messages, and reduce or remove interruptions during your regular work periods. Depending on the structure of your day and your responsibilities, it can be more effective to block off periods to reply to emails. Quick phone calls will help reduce the time spent on communicating information, and group meetings will allow you to cut through the approvals process and get an answer immediately, but beware of large meetings. Keep them small by cutting out anybody who isn’t directly required to be there. Other members can be cc’d on follow up emails to understand the next steps. This will reduce the amount of time spent on unnecessary things. The goal of streamlining communication is to allow more time to be spent on tasks and projects, and reduce the number of interruptions that interfere with your workflow. 


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