OHS and WHS: working long hours has negative impact on workers

Working more hours to impress your boss and colleagues is a common practice in the workplace with five million Australian full-time employees clocking over 40 hours a week, and 1.6 million doing more than over 50 hours per week, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

According to Heads Up, a recent ABC News article explored the impact that working longer days has on productivity outcomes and whether the added pressure, fatigue and sacrificed relationships were worth it.

Chief executive of BHP Andrew Mackenzie revealed that the more senior he has become, the more important working fewer hours is to get the most use out of his time.

"A rested Andrew can do more in four hours than a tired Andrew can do in eight," sais Mackenzie.

Dr Annie McKee, a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania says, "long hours backfire for people and for companies."

“The evidence is growing that working fewer hours, but being more productive during those hours, is a far better use of our time and energy.”

"Overwork sucks us into a negative spiral, causing our brains to slow down and compromising our emotional intelligence," said Dr McKee.

While everyone responds differently to the demands of working overtime, research has found there is a distinct tipping point – with productivity and mental health declining beyond a 39-hour work week.

Some countries have already put this idea into practice. The Washington Post reports that in countries like Denmark there is a work culture where workers are not rewarded for long hours the way they are in countries like Australia.

“Here, if you can't get your work done in the standard 37 hours a week, you're seen as inefficient,” one Dane said.

Dr McKee believes the key to restoring a healthy work-life balance is to work out whether the pressure to work long hours is coming from you or your boss.

“Working extra hours in busy periods every now and again is sometimes a necessary part of meeting the demands of work, but if pulling big weeks at the office is the norm this may negatively impacting people’s wellbeing,” sais McKee.

“Research has demonstrated that it is not just the amount of work that makes a difference, but also the extent to which employees have the resources to do the work well.”



Image sourced from Flickr cc: Nick Wright

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