Working Long Hours Kills You


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Are your employees working 11 or more hours per day? Then they have a 67 per cent higher risk of having a heart attack or dying from heart disease than those who work seven to eight hours a day, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.Sure, you’ve gotten by with a reduced workforce throughout the Great Recession, but this research suggests it’s time to ease your staff’s burdens.

Go beyond job descriptions: “Have all employees meet as a team to discuss who enjoys doing specific tasks, who can do which tasks quickest and easiest, and swap tasks. Don’t be stuck with ‘job descriptions’ for who does tasks. Having people do what they enjoy makes jobs easier,” says Atlanta-based licensed professional counselor Terry L. Wynne.

Marina Gapeenkova, a Toronto, Ontario-based human resources professional, adds: “I believe it’s the role of HR to survey the workforce and place people into the right roles. Instead, what’s currently being done is getting people to fit the roles. And it’s done through current recruitment practices and via performance management. Instead of doing what you are best at, you are trying to improve on what you are not very good at. There is a huge loss of productivity, time loss, and hence added stress to employees.”

Use technology to simplify processes: “We needed a simpler way to give customer service to our customers. We switched to a new online application for processing customer service cases. We were using Kayako. While it does the basic job, it was a bit cumbersome for both our customers and our agents. So, we switched to Assistly. The bottom line is we are answering and resolving cases faster now and it is taking less of our agents’ time,” says Kenneth Vogt, CEO of

Take folks out for a spur-of-the-moment lunch: “Just getting out of the office–away from email and phones–gives the staff a chance to connect with one another, share some laughs over a good meal, and it tends to spark more creativity when back at the office,” explains Angela Nielsen, president and creative director of small web design firm One Lily Inc., located in Barstow, Calif.

Discourage multi-tasking: “It’s been heavily researched and proven that multi-tasking doesn’t work. When multi-tasking, less gets done, at lower quality and increased stress. Yet, it’s a requirement at any level of corporate ladder,” says Gapeenkova.

Give employees back part of their commute time: “Allow them to work off-site or remotely for a few days a week so they have the opportunity to reinvest that time outside of work and rejuvenate,” says Meryl Rosenthal, co-founder of FlexPaths, a provider of web-based and consultative flexible working solutions. “An additional benefit to employers providing this flexibility is enhanced retention and engagement. Research shows the link between length of commute and likelihood of individuals leaving their jobs.”

Delete, delay, delegate, and diminish: “Delete. Just because this is how it’s always been done, isn’t good enough. Every step should either be supporting your overall vision or goal, or should be eliminated. Delay. Even if you feel it should be done…does it have to be done now? Placing something on the back-burner for now often allows other more pressing activities to be completed. Delegate. Make sure the task is assigned to the correct and appropriate owner. Diminish. Review the project or assignment with realistic scheduling. Eliminate the features or tasks that are rarely used, make the features used only once more manual or covered via a tutorial, combine solutions, and reuse functions,” suggests Tampa, Fla.-based certified efficiency coach Laura Rose.

Turn more control over to your staff: “Give employees control over how they do their tasks. Don’t saddle them with ‘we’ve always done it this way.’ If they can think of easier ways to get the job done well, give them the latitude to adjust processes,” says Leigh Steere, co-owner Managing People Better, LLC in Boulder, Colo.

Adjust how you communicate: “Ask employees what they think about your current approach to emails, voicemails, texting, or popping your head into their office. If less frequency would make their jobs easier, create a [document] where you can ‘park’ your thoughts. Then, you can communicate those thoughts with employees at a pre-agreed frequency,” adds Steere.

Reward employees: “Don’t underestimate simple reward and recognition tools to show your staff that you appreciate their hard work,” explains Dianne Shaddock Austin, principal of Hyde Park, Mass.-based Easy Small Business HR. “Employers should make a point of highlighting the accomplishments of their employees no matter what the circumstances, but it is especially important in situations where employees are ‘taking on more for the team.'”