What does a better workday mean to you? For most people, it’s being able to get the job done. But as simple as this may seem, the 2022 Better Workday Survey shows that it’s not easy and impacts employee well-being.
53% of people are working more than 40 hours a week to try and keep on top of their work commitments, with some regularly working 50 – 70 hours a week.
Employees are frustrated, being pulled away from important work for last-minute firefighting and ad hoc requests. They are overwhelmed with the sheer volume of work that awaits their attention.
What results from these long hours and feelings of frustration and being overwhelmed? Well, for better or worse, the work does indeed get done. 68% of people reported that they typically meet their deadlines.
This is worrying.
It is worrying because as long as the deadlines are being met and the goals are being achieved, organisations with an over-work culture will have no bottom-line motivation to change. Yes, people move to companies that foster healthy workload management, but the team they leave behind will be left to carry an even heavier load.
It is worrying because the increased focus on well-being at work often misses a critical element; all the wellness, financial and other supports are only effective if employees have the time and attention available.
A heavy workload gets in the way of your well-being programs.
If your people are struggling to find the time to get their work done, a lunchtime meditation will be the last thing on their minds. And if their inbox is jam-packed with requests, more work and irrelevant updates, then the emails with information on financial advice will go unopened.
It is not good enough that the work gets done at the expense of the people who do it.
But there is an alternative. Not all teams in all companies work the same way.
The Better Workday Survey also found that a small portion of the respondents feels confident or energised about their workload. And this is being developed further by initiatives like the 4-day workweek movement. The companies piloting this model show that it is possible to reduce the time spent at work – if it is set as an organisational objective.
You don’t need to go as far as a reduced working week if you want to support the well-being of your employees. Why not begin with a 5-day week? In other words, a week where people have the time in their working day to take complete breaks away from their desks and don’t work additional (unpaid) hours in the evening and weekend.
Stop being busy and be more productive.
The first step towards this is looking at the workload from the top down. One step in the journey to a 4-day workweek is the examination of your current activities. This includes meetings, daily tasks, and more significant projects. Things that no longer add value are taken off the table, allowing people to focus on getting the work done in a shorter working period.
Nothing is stopping you from doing the same thing to reduce unofficial overtime, presenteeism and leavism,
It begins at leadership because work doesn’t flow up an organisational hierarchy; it ripples down and across multiple teams. Until senior management gets comfortable with saying no, or not right now, the change at the team level will be minimal. After all, you can only do so much streamlining when the work still needs to be done.
One in five people who responded to the Better Workday Survey said that work bleeds into nearly every aspect of their life.
That is unfair, unhealthy, and unsustainable.
It results in long- and short-term absences due to work-related stress, attrition and – honestly – a culture that people won’t want to be part of.
Lead by example
As a leader, you can make an immediate and positive change by starting with one action.
Cancel one meeting. Stop one project. Change your mind about a request that isn’t that important.
Be the one who shows people it’s ok to say no at work to make room for the activities that will create the most significant impact.
Be the one to create a better workday.