Work Until You Drop: How The Long-Hours Culture Is Killing Us
Photo credit: Victoria Heath
As the Baby Boomer generation exits the workforce and the Millennials move into upper management, a lot of focus is given to the work ethic. Baby Boomers believe they worked harder than the current generation. One reason for this opinion is that former employees worked 40 (plus) hours per week, while many full-time employees work 35 hours per week.
Studies have shown that this is a misconception. The Baby Boomer generation had little in comparison to the technology businesses use today. The fact is today's employees do not have to be in the office to work. Everything is computerized. With the help of a smartphone, laptop, and tablet, employees can and do work from everywhere. They have virtual meetings (sometimes after business hours.) They check and answer emails in the middle of the night.
In recent years the American workforce has changed considerably. The government now requires all employers with more than 50 full-time employees must offer health insurance. The rising insurance rates forced smaller businesses to reduce their number of employees. They also cut the hours of much-needed employees to 30 hours per week, so they are classified as part-time people. These changes had to be made in order for some people to keep their doors open.
Photo credit: Kevin Grieve
Fewer Hours = Less Work?
As a rule, employers hire just enough employees to allow them to stay in business. They do not hire extra employees. If a situation arises that requires more people, they call a temporary service. Cutting hours and employees does not mean there is less work. It means the employees who held their jobs are expected to do more with fewer hours. This is where technology kicks in.
Co-workers may see you at your desk 30 hours per week, but they don’t see the endless (and around the clock) you work from home or in your car. They often have no boundaries which allow their job to infiltrate every part of their lives.
When Baby Boomers worked their 40-hour a week job, they could turn it off at 5:00 and leave the work in their office. If a situation required them to put in extra hours, they were paid overtime. Today’s worker takes it on themselves to work as long as they need to in order to accomplish their tasks. The result is, never shifting out of work mode. When they are with family or friends, their phones and computers are on. When they are at the Little League game, they still get texts and calls pertaining to work. They have no boundaries, and this creates a high-pressured existence. The stress they feel is evident.
Every night 50 - 70 thousands of Americans take sleeping pills. Many of them drink massive amounts of caffeine to awaken. They often turn to medications to help them focus through the fog they feel.
People who work like this often eat on the run. This contributes to poor nutrition and digestion problems. High blood pressure, headaches, fatigue, and depression are contributing factors of stress on the health of an employee.
We have established that today's employees work as hard or harder than the generation before us. We understand that technology gives the edge they need to succeed, but it comes at a price.
Employers are beginning to see the results of their overworked employees. They also realize that this trend will not last. People feel unappreciated and their loyalty to the company begins to weaken.
It is time for managers to manage. Technology has helped create the problem and technology can help you control it.
Take advantage of a good online time clock system. These tools help the employee to stop working around the clock. They keep up with the hours worked and factor in breaks. You can see more here.
Take advantage of the tools available. These tools help you track inventory, process forecasts, and do payroll. There are many good programs that free the employee up for hands-on efforts. As a manager, it is up to you to create a working environment that works for the company and the employees.
Using technology will reduce the number of mistakes due to human error. The programs give you a clear picture of where you stand, where you are headed, and of any problems that are coming your way.
It is obvious that today’s employee works as hard (and in many ways harder) than the generations before them. Their work ethic is high and they are giving it all they have. They used technology to get them through the decade of recession, and reorganization of the workplace. Technology grows at a massive rate. The software you used a few years ago has become obsolete. The good news is, the current technology is able to recover companies and employees. As these tools are put into place, you will see happier and healthier employees that are loyal to your company.