Are you opening work emails when you’re at home? Getting business updates on your iPhone when you’re out with the kids? Technological advances mean that when you clock out of the workplace, a huge chunk of your work can follow you home even when you are off the clock, whether that’s on your laptop, iPad or phone.
In the UK, there has been a dramatic rise in working hours, with the average employee working 32 hours per week, or 1,669 hours per year. But is working longer hours really the secret to more smarter workers and a more productive workforce? The answer is no.
Which Countries Have the Most Productive Workers?
Germany and France are two of the most productive countries, but they are also two of the countries with the fewest working hours. In Germany, the average employee works 1388 hours per year (or 26.6 hours per week) and in France the figure is only slightly higher with working hours totaling 1,489 per year (28.6 hours per week).
In contrast, Mexicans work the most hours, averaging 41.5 hours per week, which is a whopping 2,200 hours annually. South Korea isn’t far behind, with 2,100 hours worked annually per person (41.5 hours per week). Despite longer working hours, both countries fall short in term of productivity when compared to their German and French counterparts.
Even without taking productivity into account, studies have found that people who have fewer working hours are more loyal and suffer less stress and illness. Research from the Mental Health Foundation found that when working long hours, 27 percent of workers feel depressed, 34 percent feel anxious and a huge 58 percent feel irritable. We all know that unhappy employees result in unhappy employers. Work-related stress costs Britain 10.4 million working days per year.
What Can Employers Learn from This?
If you want smarter employees, be a smarter employer. Overworking your staff will only lead to burn-outs, rock-bottom company work culture and a drop in your profit margins. Aim to have your employees working smarter, instead of longer. How do you do that?
Prioritize and Organize
Prioritization and organization is essential for smarter working. Be ruthless about what tasks need to be completed immediately and which ones can wait until later in the week. Giving all tasks equal priority will lead to attempts at multi-tasking. Julie Morgenstern, a productivity expert, has scientifically proven that the brain cannot efficiently switch between tasks. Consequently, tasks take longer, the quality of work is lower, and you’ll probably not retain much information, meaning subsequent tasks will also suffer. Smarter workers are the ones who focus on each task individually
Delegate Tasks and Train Staff
One of the most common mistakes made by employers and managers is trying to do everything by themselves. Work out which tasks don’t make it to the top of your priority list and train your staff to do them for you. Training your staff will pay off in the long run. Ensuring that staff can effectively carry out tasks to the standard that you desire will keep your company working like a well-oiled machine. Delegating “important” tasks to other members of the workforce also shows your trust in them, making it a great way to boost morale.
The ultimate secret to having smarter workers is to make sure that they are finding a good balance between working and enjoying their free time. There are plenty of critics of work/life balance, but many of them also suggest allocating time for when you won’t log on to work emails or answer the phone.
Employees who don’t have romantic evenings with their other half and weekends at the park with their kids interrupted by phone calls from the office will be much more productive when they are working. Blurring the lines between work and life makes it difficult for employees to focus on their work, even when they’re in the office. As an employer, offering incentives and supporting employees in their passions and interests can be just the ticket to achieving that balance.
Ron Stewart has worked in the recruitment industry for 30 years, having owned companies in the IT, Construction and Medical sectors. He is currently running the Jobs4Group, and is CEO of Jobs4Medical. Follow Ron on Twitter at @jobs4medical.