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Report: Long Work Hours Lead to Burnout, Not Productivity

Burnt out worker

​Your employees may be burning the proverbial midnight oil, putting in time beyond the normal workday, but that doesn't mean they're more productive, according to a new global survey.

Forty percent of 10,333 workers surveyed said they regularly work after hours, and half said they're pressured to do so—mostly because they otherwise don't have enough time to complete their tasks or have too many competing priorities, not because they want to want to work longer. However, employees who log off at the end of the workday registered 20 percent higher productivity scores than those who felt obligated to work after the normal workday.

The report is based on a Qualtrics survey for Slack conducted between Aug. 24 and Sept. 15 with full-time workers in Australia, France, Germany, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. Respondents did not include Slack or Salesforce employees or customers. While some professions require working longer than the traditional 9-to-5 workday, such as nursing, truck driving and factory work, the survey focused on desk-based workers.

Half of all respondents said they don't take work breaks; researchers found those workers were 1.7 times more likely to suffer burnout.

"Constantly feeling like you need to catch up is hurting employees and businesses," commented Christina Janzer, senior vice president of research and analytics at Slack and head of Slack's Workforce Lab, in the report.

"This underscores the importance of building a culture of trust where employees feel safe enough to speak up when they need help prioritizing and have the right balance of time in the workday to get work done," she said.

Meeting fatigue may be part of the problem. Twenty-three percent of individual contributors said they spend too much time in meetings—and that percentage increases as one progresses up the organizational chart. A majority of workers overall said spending more than two hours a day in meetings is the tipping point for them, cutting into the time they have to focus on their work. Email is no help, either: 21 percent of individual contributors said email overload is pulling them away from their tasks.

Digital retail giant Shopify announced in January it was canceling recurring meetings that involved more than three people and making Wednesdays a no-meeting day.

"Uninterrupted time is the most precious resource of a craftsperson," was the reasoning digital retail giant Shopify gave employees.

But some CEOs espouse long hours, setting high expectations for their workers. In November 2022, Elon Musk, CEO of Twitter (since rebranded as X), sent an early-morning email to all employees telling them to be "extremely hardcore" and work "long hours at high intensity" or find a job elsewhere, The Washington Post reported. And Narayana Murthy, founder of Infosys, has said young workers should "want to work 70 hours a week" to boost India's economy.

SHRM Online collected the following articles and resources on the subject of long hours and the impact on productivity. 

Elon Musk Demands Employees Work ‘Long Hours,’ but Turning Staff into Workaholics Makes Them Less Productive, Slack's 10,000-Person Survey Finds

Elon Musk, who claimed to have once slept overnight at the Tesla factory, has since gone on record for encouraging similar behavior from his employees.

But as younger generations push back against hustle culture and assert the importance of work/life balance, the value of working overtime has been thrown into question. Now, team messaging platform Slack says there's no use in burning the midnight oil—unless you actually want to.
(Yahoo! Finance)

Arianna Huffington’s Top Advice to Executives: ‘Get Comfortable with Incompletions’

Burnout is one of today's hottest topics. But for Arianna Huffington, the syndrome that was first officially recognized by the World Health Organization in 2019 has been top-of-mind since she collapsed from burnout 15 years ago.

"I literally collapsed, hit my head on my desk, and broke my cheekbone."

The incident inspired nearly a decade of reporting around stress and mental health as founder and CEO of The Huffington Post, before she decided to shift her focus from awareness to action.

The Average Workday Has Shrunk by 37 Minutes

Employees are working more than half an hour less per day than they did a year ago, new research finds. However, while time worked has shrunk—from 10 hours and 37 minutes a day to 10 hours a day—nearly one-third (28 percent) of employees remain overutilized as they continue to log 10-hour-plus days, the analysis found.

"This shift did not result in a loss of productivity, but rather an improvement in workload balance" said Productivity Lab manager Sarah Altemus. 
(SHRM Online

‘Grueling’ Work Intensity a Growing Problem in ‘Burnt-Out Britain’

Workers in England and Wales report that they are working harder and longer now compared to previous years, the Trades Union Conference warned in a report it released in July. Increasing work intensity, it said, means workers are having to pack more work into working hours, with work often spilling over into their private lives. The findings are from a survey of 2,198 workers in England and Wales.
(Trades Union Conference)


​An organization run by AI is not a futuristic concept. Such technology is already a part of many workplaces and will continue to shape the labor market and HR. Here's how employers and employees can successfully manage generative AI and other AI-powered systems.