Imagine working only four hours a day, nine months a year and earning all the money you need to do exactly what you want with all your free time. Does that sound like your life? That’s the life a futurist of the early 20th Century predicted the average worker would be living by the 21st century.
Yet despite the introduction of many labour-saving devices in the workplace and home, Harvard University Economist Juliet Schor found by the 1990s people were working the equivalent of one month a year more than they did at the end of World War II.
As an example, Schor explained in her book Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure how the introduction of automatic washers and dryers resulted in an increase in time spent doing laundry. Laundry that had previously been sent out now stayed home, and standards of cleanliness went up.
Laundry isn’t the only task that has grown over the last century.
It seems that whenever a significant new “labour saving” product or service is developed we use it so much our workload actually increases.
After all, wasn’t our work supposed to be made easier by voice mail, fax machines, cell phones and email? On the contrary, many of us find we are constantly on-call, frequently interrupted, and overwhelmed with communications that people expect to receive immediate responses to.
That’s on top of the already heavy workload existing in most organizations. For an employee, the consequences of this overload can be stress, burnout, and illness. For an employer, it can result in high turnover and poor performance.
Addressing the problem of overwork can help companies keep good employees.
A recent study by AON Consulting found that management recognition of an employee’s need to balance work with personal life is one of the top five drivers of employee commitment to a company.
To help overworked employees, managers should be trained to notice signs that employees are overburdened. Such signs include consistently working late, working through lunch, coming to work even when sick, taking work home, rushing to meet very tight deadlines, expressing frustration, and not taking vacations. Read more...