A Long Hours Work Culture is well established in many small businesses
The way we communicate and ‘stay connected’ has been blurring the lines between work, rest and play and adding to this long hours work culture.
When used well, information and communication technology aids flexible working and can contribute to a healthier work-life balance. However, research is now showing that technology is making many people actually work longer hours. This has been described as a contributor to the ‘dark side’ of flexible working.
A recent Chartered Management Institute (CMI) survey of UK managers found 77% working at least an additional hour each day. Up to 10% of managers admitted to putting in more than three extra hours a day and 61% of those interviewed blamed their increases on technology.
The CMI study also reported a link between managers working longer hours and them suffering from increased headaches, irritability, insomnia and early symptoms of mental health problems.
People’s access to too much information, or cognitive overload, is also widely known to impair the ability to think clearly, learn new things and make decisions.
Britain is known for its long hours work culture, but our productivity levels remain well below that of other G7 countries (nearly 20% lower according to the Office of National Statistics). If a long hours work culture is not good for the health and wellbeing of workers and it’s not contributing to increased productivity levels of businesses, owner managers need to take action now to break bad habits and introduce smarter and more effective ways of working.
Five practical steps to tackle a long hours work culture through the smarter use of technology
1. Reviewing actual work practices and customs
Actively look for hidden expectations and negative work patterns – the ones that are not written down or documented in a handbook or policy eg expectations to return calls and texts during scheduled holidays.
2. Setting clear boundaries and codes of conduct regarding communication
Make guidelines explicit and clearly define acceptable and unacceptable in-work and out-of-work communication eg reasonable time periods for responding to emails
3. Communicating agreed protocols
Ensure managers, staff, workers and sub-contractors are made aware of company rules and how they can make complaints if rules are broken
4. Leading by example
Make sure that senior managers abide by the rules both for themselves and those they manage
5. Promoting health and wellbeing programmes
Champion the use of practical and targeted wellbeing programmes to encourage healthier living and support proper breaks from work both within the working day and out of hours.
Unfortunately, a long hours work culture and ‘anytime’ working can be exacerbated by the wider societal problem of FOMO (fear of missing out) and FOBO (fear of being off-line). Social, peer and personal pressures can make ‘switching off’ from work and devices even harder. Although employers can’t dictate an individual’s use of their own devices outside work, they can help empower them to take responsibility for their own actions whilst working and their overall e-resilience.
Contact me if you would like help in implementing any of the above steps.
And, if you need help convincing people to take these issues seriously, share this video with them!