|Previous Page||Print this page|
Why are so many people working late and what can we do about it?
In the last twenty years there has been a huge shake out of the number of people employed by organisations. The need to improve productivity and reduce costs has been obvious and probably necessary. However, in most organisations reducing the number of people employed has been much easier than reducing the work they do.
People fill the gap by giving much more time to the organisation than they contracted to do. This is good for the profits of the organisation the short term. Its longer-range consequences are entirely destructive.
Some consequences in work
Rest and relaxation are rational needs. If we do not have enough of them we will make more mistakes, miss opportunities and do our jobs poorly. We will have less enthusiasm for change and development. It will feel like another demand.
Pressure and stress, tighter deadlines often lead to people being insensitive to colleagues' needs and particularly those of support staff. This leads to tensions between people, with no time to resolve them. This increases the stress reduces performance and accelerates the counterproductive spiral.
The pressure to produce output makes it very difficult to stop 'doing'. Managers do not look at how people are working together or the systems they are using to see how to handle the situation better. Managers stop managing people.
Work becomes something to survive rather than a place to be creative. People get ill and have time off work. The ability of the organisation to innovate disappears.
Influence on families and the wider society
The influence on families can be catastrophic. Organisational behaviour causes a very large proportion of marital and relationship tensions. If relationships are to work, the partners must have time together and have the energy for that to be good quality time. It is not enough to be home late and be so tired that you immediately fall asleep. Partners find the other coming home late, tired, not taking holidays, travelling on business at weekends and working at home, unacceptable and end the relationship. It must be even more difficult for dual career couples.
Children from homes where their parents, or parent, are unable to listen to their children are more likely to be delinquent, underachieve or be unemployed than those with parents who can do so. Any parent will tell you that parenting is a most challenging and difficult job.
The financial costs of coping with relationship and family breakdown come back to organisations and individuals through the tax system. The social costs are an unhappy society.
Overworking creates unemployment. Many people are overworking with all the stresses described a large but fewer number are unemployed and suffering from lack of meaning and poverty. It is logical to share out the work and reduce the stress and stress related costs on both groups.
Why do we put up with it?
There are at least two groups of people who overwork. The first are 'workaholics'. These people live for work. They are not responding to outside pressure. Workaholics have often had early experiences where the only way to get any love and approval was by working. They continue to seek this approval through their work. Of course they cannot get now what they needed in the past. Although these people are clearly victims of what happened to them, their behaviour can be very difficult at work. They make work for people around them and then pressure others to be as 'committed' as they are.
Most of the people who overwork are not 'workaholics'. They are forced into this pattern of working. The economic climate makes them feel afraid of not conforming to the way others behave in the organisation or what people expect. It is hard to say that you want to be with your partner or child and you will not stay late tonight. The quality of the work falls because of the resentment (sometimes unconscious) about having to be there.
Organisations under short term pressure for results may decide to ignore these uncomfortable realities. However, when job prospects improve the best people will move to organisations that allow them to work to live rather than vice versa. This is already starting to happen. It will also become progressively harder to recruit good people into organisations that encourage overworking.
If society wants to take serious action about crime, it has to start thinking about how to encourage stable loving families. One way is to stop this destructive pattern of overwork.
What can be done?
This can lead to:
E.g. "In this organisation, except in a rare emergency, we expect employees to be able to achieve their targets in no more than X hours per week". "Where this is difficult the solution will usually found through discussion with your colleagues and manager and may include additional training. Taking work home routinely is unacceptable."
Please use any of the buttons below to share this article more widely.
Phone +44 (0)1707886553, or +44(0)7879861525 email firstname.lastname@example.org or Skype nickheap
Using these materials
There are free articles, exercises, designs, book references and links to other sources about many aspects of personal, team, management and organisation development on this website. I will add other resources as I learn what you want.Follow @nickheap