Is it time to reduce office hours?

14 Aug

Long hours harm productivity.

Employees work more hours than ever, and it's starting to have an impact on their well-being. It's up to human resources managers to work with companies to curb this trend, especially given impending changes to overtime pay laws. Consider using a survey or reviewing data in your employee management software to gauge how your staff feel about their current hours and workload.

Working more hours
A new survey from CareerBuilder found the 9-to-5 workday is becoming a thing of the past. With 24-7 access to email and work communications, working hours rarely conform to the traditional office hours.

More than 60 percent of all employees in information technology, financial services, sales, and professional and business services think working nine to five is an outdated concept, the survey found.

What are staff doing outside of typical office hours? Half answer emails, while almost 40 percent continue to focus on their typical day-to-day tasks.

While the majority of workers (62 percent) feel operating outside of normal working hours is a choice rather than a requirement, HR teams may want to consider whether they want to encourage this behavior to continue.

Worker morale
Because staff are chained to their desks, either mentally or physically, they lose out on time to pursue personal interests and spend time with their families. The survey found many employees think about work before going to bed or right when they wake up. Others have trouble keeping their mind off of work during leisure activities.

On top of making employees unhappy, working excessive hours makes staff less productive overall. Once employees begin to work more than 50 hours, for instance, output begins to fall, according to research from John Pencavel of Stanford University. There is a limit to how productive workers can be with their time. After the 50 hour mark, adding more hours to the work day does not result in more productivity.

There's good evidence to demonstrate reducing working hours increases happiness without productivity decreasing. However, with President Obama's proposed change to overtime law, employers may have another reason to limit working hours.

Legal issues on the horizon
President Obama announced a potential extension of overtime pay to those making $47,892 or less annually, according to a statement from the Department of Labor. This would mean roughly 5 million workers would soon be eligible for overtime pay. If employers want to avoid the high costs of overtime pay, they will need to either reconfigure job descriptions or put preventative measures in place to keep staff from exceeding 40 hours per workweek.

With these impending changes to labor laws, HR managers should consider the potential benefits of reducing staff hours before it becomes a necessity.

While cloud-based software and digital devices cause employees to work longer hours, these tools also have the benefit of enabling flexible schedules. Allowing some employees to create their own schedules could make it easier to keep them within a specific timeframe and prevent feeling exhausted and overworked.

Comments are closed.