In a comparison of national productivity statistics, research revealed Germans tend to work 600 fewer annual hours than Greeks, yet Germans are 70% more productive. At first glance, this may seem outrageous. But these numbers align with what I’ve seen in my coaching practice. The individuals who constrain their time produce a greater output. This is good news on many levels. For one, when you decrease working hours, you are less susceptible to health and relational issues.
Our culture seems to value overworking. It’s a badge of honor. In some companies, a healthy work-life balance is cause for suspicion instead of celebration. Overworking not only hurts individuals, though. It also negatively impacts the company. Leaders are often unaware that they accomplish less by working more. When this lesson finally sinks in, high achievers will experience greater success and more enjoyable personal lives.
Still skeptical about decreasing your working hours? Consider these three costs of overworking.
1. Missing Out on Life
When you work all the time, you miss opportunities for leisure, rest, non-work-related learning, and family time. It’s easy to convince yourself the overworking is temporary. You believe your efforts now will free up leisure time later. The truth is there’s always more to do. There is no natural end to overdoing it. You have to intentionally break the habit. Working long hours may feel productive, but the longer you work, the stupider you get.
It’s like overtraining at the gym. Elite athletes give their muscles time to recover. This builds up strength instead of breaking down the body. You may feel more accomplished if you work without resting, but you will not see positive impacts on job performance or personal goals.
2. Poor Health Due to Stress
Workplace stress is detrimental to well-being. Refusing to rest can produce consequences that impact every area of your life. In fact, seventy percent of American workers experience stress-related illnesses. Physical symptoms include tension headaches, rapid breathing, increased blood pressure, digestive problems, high cholesterol, and decreased libido.
When these illnesses show up, most leaders reach for antacids and prescription medications instead of addressing the cause of stress. No one is immune to this. My daughter attributes her autoimmune disease to overworking. She recently recounted a story about keeping Pepto-Bismol in the cupholder of her car. She drank straight from the bottle on her way in to work.
I have several stories of my own. On many occasions, I ended up in the ER thinking I was having a heart attack. My MD diagnosed me with acid reflux. It turns out that my recurring pain was panic attacks. When I sought help from a psychologist, I finally managed to address the stress and quit making trips to the ER.
You may feel trapped in a cycle of overworking, but there’s hope for you. Start by acknowledging the issue. Then take control of your circumstances.
3. Decreased Job Satisfaction
It may seem obvious that overworking contributes to turnover. However, I’ve noticed a commonly accepted myth that the most engaged workers are the happiest. This is simply not true. No matter how much you love what you do, overworking will affect your career happiness.
Excessive work hours do not provide greater job satisfaction. They cause burnout. A recent study by the Yale Center of Emotional Intelligence showed that 20% of employees experience both high engagement and high burnout. They are simultaneously passionate and frustrated over their work. A consistently high stress level pushes them to search for other jobs.
High stress and high engagement do not have to go together. You can be deeply invested in your mission and manage healthy stress levels. It just takes intention.
On the road to increased productivity, you need to unload overwork. The long hours you’ve grown accustomed to may seem impossible to break, but consider the major drain on your life experience, physical and mental health, and job satisfaction. Staying stuck is a choice. Will you settle or soar?