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Why Working Less Can Help You Get More Done

Americans pride themselves on being hard workers, but that doesn’t mean we’re the most productive. That honor goes to Germany – and they work fewer hours per week than people in the U.S.

Why Working Less Can Help You Get More Done

Both Germany and France recently bested the U.S. in a study that measured the productivity per hour of employees. Coincidentally, Germany and France have mandated that employees must get at least 20 days off per year, although most workers take between 25-30 days off. In the U.S. there are no regulations requiring that employees get time off. In fact, when workers do get paid time off, an average of five PTO days go unused.

Many recent studies show that not taking time off is hurting employee productivity and costing businesses billions of dollars.

The High Cost of Work Related Burnout

Work related burnout is becoming an increasingly serious problem that was made worse by the recession. People were afraid that if they took time off, they might be considered a slacker, so instead they put in overtime. It’s also easier to overwork these days because you can take work with you anywhere on your mobile devices.

Working more hours may seem like a good idea until you look at the quality of work that’s being done and the effect that it has on employees.

Lower Productivity Levels

The standard workweek in the U.S. is 40 hours, although 50+ hours a week is normal for many workers. Studies have shown that consistently working more than 40 hours a week does not produce greater results. Most people max out at about eight hours of work per day. Anything beyond that is essentially spinning wheels.

Never taking time off is detrimental to productivity because employees don’t have time to relax and recharge. That’s when the health problems noted below begin to manifest.

Lack of relaxation can also hurt creativity and focus. When our brains get overworked, it impairs our ability to stay disciplined and on task. Our attention and problem-solving skills also suffer. When our cognitive resources are drained, it’s impossible to be productive. What’s worse is that the quality of work being done also declines.

Health Risks

The health-related issues associated with overworking are significant on many levels. Being constantly on and not taking breaks can lead to a number of serious health concerns.

Stress – Roughly 75% of U.S. employees say they feel stressed at work, with 25% rating their stress levels as high. Chronic stress has been linked to elevated risk for heart disease, obesity, accelerated aging and a host of other deadly conditions.

Heart Problems – Stress is probably the reason why a 2010 study concluded that people working 10+ hours per day have a 60% higher chance of cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure and heart attack.

Fatigue – The National Sleep Foundation has discovered that people who work 50 or more hours per week are among the most sleep deprived Americans. Instead of the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night, overtime workers got less than five hours of shut eye.

Cognitive Decline – It could be the sleep problems, but doctors have connected overworking with increased cognitive decline. There’s even the potential for increased dementia risks.

Unhealthy employees can’t operate on all cylinders, which leads to a decline in productivity. The increased risk of serious health complications can put them out of commission completely while increasing the health care costs for both the employee and employer.

Happiness Factor

Never taking a break from work also negatively impacts happiness. When workers aren’t happy, productivity declines. A recent study found that people who worked more than 11 hours per day were not only unhappy, they had a higher likelihood of depression. Another undesirable side effect of unhappy employees is a lower retention rate, which costs businesses time and money.

Never taking a break from work also negatively impacts happiness. When workers aren’t happy, productivity declines. A recent study found that people who worked more than 11 hours per day were not only unhappy, they had a higher likelihood of depression. Another undesirable side effect of unhappy employees is a lower retention rate, which costs businesses time and money.

Clearly, taking breaks from work to reduce stress and refuel is exactly what U.S. employees need to boost productivity. Business owners should not only provide employees with paid time off, but also encourage them to take it.

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