Earlier this week I asked the question: do we needed set work hours. One of the dangers of flexible hours is over-working. Here is some research on the consequences of working too long. Technorati reported on new Avaya research that found 81 per cent of the people survyed have experienced negative consequences as a result of devoting too much time to the business, rather than to other areas of their life. These results came from a survey of 700 senior managers in small and medium businesses (SMEs) conducted Summer 2011 in the UK and Germany. Now the UK and Germany are known for protecting worker’s hours so these results may not be quite so extreme in the US or Asia.
However, I was really interested to also read that “conversely, 83 per cent of sufferers say flexible working has helped ease these sorts of problems for them personally, signaling that businesses can aid employees in improving their work-life balance and productivity significantly through flexibility-boosting communications tools.” In my post on the relevancy of set work hours, I cited the concern that flexible hours might lead to work exploitation. These results imply the opposite.
On the negative side, over working can produce many bad results. Over of the respondents (56%) endure stress. While a third (33%) have suffered from poor health and over a quarter (27%) of people admit to marriage or relationship problems. A tenth said their dedication to work has actually resulted in divorce or separation. In addition, almost a fifth (18%) of parents admit to missing out on their kids’ school activities such as sports days and awards ceremonies, as a result of an inflexible work regime.
These findings support the need to shift to a more results oriented than time oriented work structure for industries that accommodate this type of working arrangement. In the study group over three quarters (76%) of firms offer employees some degree of flexible working but this could go further as employees still spend “an average 74% of their working week chained to their desks.”
There is room for improvement here. Even if you are part of the gig economy and are your own boss, like me, you need to be careful not to overwork.