Why you shouldn’t feel guilty for not working after hours

Photo: iStock.

There are not many people you speak to these days who simply work 9-5. We all see people arrive late to gatherings because they “had to stay back at work,” but will it always be that way?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Characteristics of Employment Survey (2015) indicates that full-time employed Australians are working above and beyond a typical 38-hour work week.

Five million of Australia’s 7.7 million full-time workers complete more than 40 hours per week and of them, 1.4 million report working more than 50 hours a week.

However, the glorification of long working hours and overtime is slowly starting to fade as new generations enter the workforce.

No longer do employees aspire towards bragging rights of 80-plus hour work weeks or being glued to their desk for 12 hours straight in the name of getting a boost in their career.

Today, employees seek both a career and a lifestyle. They want time outside of their jobs to socialise, gain new skills and explore. Employees are looking for flexible working arrangements as they re-evaluate priorities and needs within the workforce.

The work environment is being reshaped and emerging trends show it’s for the best of everyone involved.

We’re looking for flexibility

Flexibility is a big factor for many employees – with one in three Australians working from home in some capacity (ABS, 2015).

42.41% work from home to catch up on their office workload, but the remaining 57.59% do so for a range of reasons including family considerations, reduced overhead costs, conditions of employment and flexibility.

Working from home doesn’t mean that the work won’t get done. It means you can go to that medical appointment without the need to take the whole day off.

We’re connected globally

New working generations were born into an era of technological advancement. They are aware of our global connectivity and how we don’t need to be in the same room or even the same time zone to do business.

Working remotely is steadily increasing as more people look to the flexibility of working where and when they choose. And more often than not, this doesn’t include 40-plus hours per week in the boardroom.

We’re getting our priorities in check

When work starts to overrun employees lives, the first affected are usually family members and loved ones. This used to be seen as a sacrifice you had to make to get ahead in your career – and in life.

But now, you won’t hear sneers in the office as you log off before 7pm.

There’s no need to go ahead and label younger people as “lazy”. If we thank the new working generation for anything – it should be this!

We’ve finally come to the understanding that a work-life balance is just as important as what you achieve on the clock. We’re getting our priorities in check and creating healthier lifestyles in the process.

We’ve noticed that productivity declines

Researchers from Stanford University conducted a study into work productivity in 2014 and found that productivity drops after 50 hours of work. Someone who works 70 hours per week achieves no more than someone who works 55 hours.

Related research by the Harvard Business Review (2007) states that workers in a variety of fields spend no more than five or six hours per day focused on their area of expertise. After that, levels of concentration and productivity either plateau or decline.

This decline in productivity is now being seen as a waste of time and money and employers are cottoning on to this fact. That’s why companies like Google focus on the morale of their employees by offering things like gaming zones and art classes. Just like Google, more companies are seeing the link happiness has with overall productivity.

Whilst the statistics show that many Australians are still working long hours and overtime, we can see hope as the new working generation continues to enter the workforce.

As more workplaces adopt new values and begin to appreciate the productivity and healthy environment that stems from a work-life balance, the glorification of long hours will continue to fade.

I was meeting with a new client recently who informed me “we work nights and weekends here and last week I worked 80 hours!” My initial reaction is – this sounds like a terrible place to work and then I thought to myself… you need a new job!

Jeremy Cowan is the Co-Founder and Director of TwoScots Recruitment, a specialist recruitment company focusing solely on the recruitment of Accounting Support staff, Office Support Staff and all Qualified Accountant positions.

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