According to ABC News, Americans already work longer days, take less vacation time and retire later than workers in other industrialized nations. Sue Shellenbarger of The Wall Street Journal notes that two-thirds of workers are putting in longer hours than they did five years ago, though the reasons why vary from manager expectations and personal habits to wanting to match the work habits of teammates.
Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush thinks people need to work even longer hours to grow the economy, Politico reports. Bush later clarified that he meant part-time workers should have the opportunity to work longer hours, not that people already working 40 hours must put in more time on the job.
True, certain sectors pride themselves on long working hours: financial and legal firms reliant on billable hours and tech firms relying on long coding sessions among them. But asking people to work longer hours can increase costs through overtime, and might affect morale and increase the possibility of burnout. Indeed, CTV News reports that working 55 hours or more a week is linked to a greater risk of stroke.
Working more isn't the same thing as improving productivity. There is a way to improve your employees'’ productivity, without you becoming the kind of boss that sets long hours as an arbitrary standard that employees chafe under.
Designer Jason James advises workers, “[I]f you are going to put in the extra hours, make sure it's on your own terms. And if some place or some job is making you feel like long hours 'come with the territory,' just know they are misleading you to their benefit, and you can find a better situation."
Let employees set their own hours
The solution is to let employees set the terms of their work life. And while it may seem counterintuitive (or, from another perspective, perhaps a bit sneaky), try putting aside the whole notion of how many hours an employee should work.
Amy Materson, writing in Equipment World, notes that giving employees ownership of their time results in working longer hours when needed.
Stief Counts, a Chattanooga-based contractor gives ownership of time to his employees. They're salaried and on an honor system. They take as much time off as they want or need. But, wait, you ask, don't they abuse it? Nope.
The employees like the system so much they don't dare abuse it. They do their work well and leave when they're finished. If they have a slow period, they spend it how they wish instead of trying to fill empty hours with busy work. As a result, the projects come in on time and under budget, with meticulous attention to detail.
Jonathan Levitt writes in All Business Experts: "Allowing your employees to set their own hours can provide a huge competitive advantage for your business and directly improve your bottom line … Employees are happier, more productive, and incredibly loyal."
Research backs up these accounts. According Self-Managed Working Time and Employee Effort: Theory and Evidence, employees who self-manage their working time "exert ‘higher effort levels than employees with fixed working hours." Indeed, workers put in almost 7.5 hours more per week when they set their schedules.
Well-rested employees work better
Again, the focus here is improving productivity, not just putting time in (although certain situations will require that). Letting employees set their schedules has an interesting side effect. According to LinkedIn blogger Adi Gaskell, a study by the National Sleep Foundation found that employees who set their own work schedules sleep better. And employees who sleep better are better, happier, more productive employees.
Rest assured, then, that letting your employees set their working hours results in a job well done, whether it means putting in extra hours or being more productive in the hours they do put it. Either way, it’s the proverbial win-win situation for all involved.
Create a positive environment for employees
Make the workplace somewhere that inspires your employees. A dull, generic space isn’t likely to increase productivity and make them stay longer at work. Add personalized touches, such as colorful photos and greenery. Provide comfortable seating and tech that is up to date. Keep employees well fed by catering lunches or always have the break room full of beverages and snacks. Arrange for wellness perks such as free yoga sessions, discounted gym memberships,and free health checkups. Keeping your employees happy and healthy will inspire them to work longer and harder for you.
Set up a rewards system
For employees that are willing to go the extra mile, make sure you recognize their efforts. Instead of giving everyone a yearly bonus that is the same across the board, set up quarterly bonuses for those who have been working more than their colleagues. Another idea is to provide a perk to the hardest workers such as an extra day off or a gift card to a local restaurant.
Give employees room to grow
No one wants to be micromanaged. By giving your team autonomy, you're showing the trust and respect you have for them. If you take a step back, you'll be surprised to see just how much harder and longer staff will work to get the job done. Share positive feedback and consider advancement opportunities for those who put in the effort.