Friday, August 28, 2015


by Stephen Duncan

Hard work pays off. Everyone knows this to be true. There is, however, a difference between working hard and simply overworking. In the workplace, the ability to work long hours and being on-call 24/7 are generally traits that are applauded, but studies have shown that overwork is not always beneficial to the employees themselves or the company at large, and can in fact be harmful in the long run. Here’s why: 

1. Overworking can lead to a number of health problems

Impaired sleep and memory, diabetes, headaches, stomach tenseness, and depression have all been linked to overworking. The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health also discovered a link between overworking and alcoholism, noting that employees who work long hours are 12% more likely to partake in “risky alcohol use.” Related studies have shown that humans possess finite capacities for extended, uninterrupted concentration, and have concluded that short breaks are essential for long hour work sessions.

2. Overworking can make employees worse at their jobs

In addition to the health risks, overworking can also diminish one’s energy and senses, which can in turn lead to increased difficulty in essential job traits such as judgment and communication. These fatigue-induced problems could surface in a number of different forms: employees who are overworked could be more likely to lash out when they are upset, they could struggle more with making important decisions, they could have more trouble identifying and handling problems, or they could simply have a more negative outlook in the workplace altogether. It has also been statistically proven that a mere 1-3% of the population can get away with sleeping only five or six hours a night without suffering from any performance-related consequences.

3. Overworking can make employees lose sight of their goals

Along with possessing a dulled-down skill set, studies have shown that overworking can cause employees to become more distracted, and as a result, lose sight of what they are ultimately working toward in the first place. Interestingly, these studies have been linked to Facebook usage patterns. A study conducted by the social media management company Vitrue indicated that the highest Facebook usage occurs in the day during the middle of the afternoon (around 3:00 PM), in the peak hours of fatigue for most people.

4. Overworking doesn’t actually result in more output
New research done by John Pencavel of Stanford University has shown that employees who put in 70+ hours of work a week do not actually produce more output than those who work 50 hours a week. Additionally, Erin Reid of Boston University’s Questrom School of Business found that managers could not even differentiate employees who worked 80 hours a week from employees who simply said they did but actually worked less. 

The evidence is clear—overworking is overrated, and is not helpful in the workplace. Sure, working overtime once in a while can be beneficial, but when it becomes a habit, it produces disadvantageous effects. So how does one combat overwork when there’s so much work to be done? Every bit of research has suggested the same treatment:  small breaks throughout the day. A simple 15-minute break during work hours has been proven to reactivate one’s mind and energy, increasing one’s decision-making and communication skills, and putting their goals into perspective once again. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Keeping It Real

"Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect."  ---  Mark Twain 

Most business leaders are trend setters; they don't follow the crowd and blend with the masses.  They typically set their own course and blaze paths for others to use.

But, unfortunately, some begin to lean toward what the latest fad might be and see if doing things the way others do them might work. When it comes to leading team members, these flavors-of-the-month tactics usually backfire.

Here are three popular strategies that can damage your work force along with alternatives for success and ways to keep your leadership style real:

1.) Caving Into The Union Mentality-  This happens when you read too many articles and watch too many nightly news programs about how employees are jumping ship to other companies that are "sensitive" toward the employee.  First, those companies rarely succeed and most of the stories you hear are based on garbage information.  Second, if you treat your team members with respect, pay them fairly (and not what the government says you should pay them!), you won't have to worry about employees leaving.  Don't bend to the small voices petitioning for mandatory sick time and more money for less work.  Set your standards and stay the course.

2.) Hiring Illusionists To Help Build Teamwork - I am all for hiring a consultant to provide quality training for team members.  Some areas of work performance need tweaking from time to time and companies can benefit from using an outside agent with special talents to fill the need.  However, some of those agents provide hours and even days of feel-good exercises and talks.  These are akin to eating a big bowl of ice cream-- feels good, tastes great, but you will forget about in the morning.  I've never met an employee who gave better customer service after walking over hot coals.

3.) Parking Spaces -  Giving an employee-of-the-month award has its merits if you are managing a McDonald's, but isn't usually much of a reward or an incentive to others for most other businesses in the long run.  To keep it real, offer an education for the outstanding employee so they can grow and manage even more.  Most employee rewards are based on the thought that employees love trinkets and Starbucks coupons.  These are good, fun things to have, but they are just like that big bowl of ice cream, good for the short term, but soon forgotten.

Instead, offer long-lasting rewards that keep the employee interested.  If the employee is in sales, send them on a trip to see a well-known sales professional offering a seminar.  Another great reward and incentive is to provide a course outside of work that helps with the employee's hobby, or a gym membership, or a baby-sitting service to give the employee and spouse a few nights alone.  You can get real creative with these, but the point is to provide a memorable, long-lasting reward.

Make it a point to not follow the crowd, especially when it comes to leading your team.  Keep it real and your employees will reward you with dedication and loyalty.

web analytics tool