Following reports on UK employees working longer hours than most EU neighbours, in 2016, UK think tank the Smith Institute released a study showing that UK employees work not only longer but also without gain in productivity. In fact, 25% of staff felt their productivity had declined in the last 2 years.
So why is there such a well-established long-hours culture in this country? You could argue many people work hard because they want to get ahead and further their career. But could their efforts be achieving exactly the opposite? It certainly seems so. After all, according to research by Eurostat - the statistical office of the EU - countries where workers put in the longest hours don’t necessarily have the highest productivity levels.
If you’re a victim of too much work and not enough play, here are some of the reasons why pushing yourself too hard at the office in the long term may not be such a great idea:
Spending too much time at work, with little time left for yourself to do even the most basic things such as eating properly and taking regular exercise, could make you feel constantly worn-out and demoralised. In other words, you could be suffering from burnout, something that’s often associated with high achievers.
Find out more about burnout, including some of the ways to overcome it, by reading our article Top tips on avoiding burnout
There’s evidence to suggest working long hours for a long period of time could affect your health by increasing your risk of heart problems and depression. Indeed, there are many symptoms linked with burnout, including insomnia, weight gain, inability to concentrate, lowered resistance to illness, depression, anxiety, increased or irregular heart rate, headache and stomach pain.
One study also claims working 55 hours a week compared with 40 hours could affect cognitive skills such as vocabulary and reasoning. Another scientific work found being under too much pressure may affect important work-related mental activities such as planning, decision making, learning and remembering.
Remember the last time you had a great idea? Chances are you had your light-bulb moment when you were in the shower, on the train or taking the dog for a walk rather than drowning in paperwork at the office. Many experts believe the human brain needs plenty of downtime to support creative thinking and other important mental processes. Taking time away from work may help you to feel refreshed and motivated, not to mention more productive and creative.
Slaving away for more than eight hours a day may sound like the ideal way to show your manager you’re hard working and conscientious. But staying late at the office on a regular basis could also suggest you’re not capable of doing your job effectively because you’re finding it too overwhelming. Taking control of too many tasks at work could also be a sign that you don’t have the skills to delegate.
Spending long hours at work on a regular basis could even lead your manager to suspect it’s you’re wasting too much time checking your emails and social media instead of prioritising on your work tasks. Completing your work within normal working hours, on the other hand, shows you’re both efficient and competent.