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Remote workers are putting in longer hours – here’s why that’s not a good thing

workWith so much of the global workforce working from home offices, it’s not unusual for many employees to work around-the-clock, as there no longer is a clear distinction between ‘the office’ and being ‘home.’

As a result, many individuals are easily putting in 50, 60, and more hours a week. Indeed, a number of studies have demonstrated how remote workers tend to work longer hours than those in an office environment.

But contrary to what many employers and employees believe, working overtime and exceeding the normal 40 hours per week does not equate to higher productivity.

In fact, overworking can result in burnout and higher levels of stress, which naturally affect work quality, morale, and productivity.


Productivity Diminishes With Overwork

Working for extra hours after the recommended 40 hours per week does not translate into higher productivity because humans are not robots. After working for 8 hours, the brain naturally requires rest before it can return to the state required for optimum productivity. Any work done after the brain has become tired will be low quality work that could cost the organisation.

In fact, research carried out at Stanford University showed that employee output diminishes sharply when employees put in over 50 hours or more per week. This implies that someone working for up to 70 hours does not increase output within the extra 20 hours.

In a study by Erin Reid, a professor of business studies at Boston University, managers admitted that they could not differentiate between the workers who actually worked for 80 hours a week and those who simply pretended to do so.


More Mistakes and Errors Occur During Overtime Work

No matter how much an individual likes their job and how much they put in extra hours, they’re bound to make more mistakes and lose concentration faster when their body and mind are tired. Due to the common habit of taking caffeinated drinks, many knowledgeable workers cross their body’s threshold of tiredness without knowing it. Eventually, this leads to a significant drop in performance and quality of results.

During the Industrial Revolution, labour unions forced factory owners to observe workplace safety requirements and restrict their working hours to eight. Subsequently, factory managers expressed surprise because output and work quality immediately improved.

Today, 200 years later, research conducted by Harvard Business School shows that the 40-hour work week is still the most productive.


Sleep Deprivation Reduces Efficiency

In addition to fatigue, sleep deprivation is one of the common symptoms of workers who work overtime. Unfortunately, the lure of technology can cause you to ask your employees to respond to e-mails at odd hours and give up their evenings, weekends, and holidays without even raising an eyebrow.

Similarly, many workers now give up their sleep in order to put in extra hours of work at night without considering the dire consequences. Denying yourself sleep regularly, however, can lead to serious health issues.


Overwork Causes Health Problems

Overwork can hurt us and the organisations where we work by raising the cost of employee sick leave and health insurance.

Various studies including those by Finland’s Institute of Occupational Health have revealed that overwork leads to increased stress and several other health problems. Due to the sleep debt you will accumulate because of those extra hours of work, you stand a higher risk of developing conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity and stroke.

Inadequate sleep will also have a bad effect on the part of your brain called the hippocampus. The hippocampus is responsible for organising facts and creating a sound memory.



As we can see, working longer hours may sound ideal in order to achieve more and increase productivity, but the long-term effects of overwork can be harmful to an employee’s mental and physical wellbeing.

Employers should regularly encourage employees—especially remote employees—to take advantage of their days off, as this is an opportunity for the mind to rest and recalibrate, allowing them to return to work on Monday mornings refreshed and better equipped to be their most productive selves.

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