There’s an unfortunate trend in the modern professional world, and it’s making a majority of the American workforce miserable. A combination of inflexible work schedules and little emphasis on work-life balance in businesses is forcing employees to push themselves to the brink of mental and physical exhaustion.
The logical tradeoff for this arrangement would be higher levels of productivity; if workers were working harder for longer hours, it’d make sense that they’d get more work done. But, in fact, the opposite may be true.
Overstressing your employees with long, inflexible hours and no on-site options for relieving those workloads (such as a physical exercise program) can ultimately lead to mental burnout, emotional resentment and even physical health complications. Push your employees too hard, and you may make them less productive, more likely to leave and less healthy—whether they stick around or not.
The Health Consequences of Always Working
Working excessive hours with no opportunities for personal growth or recovery can lead to severe health consequences. For starters, workers who put in 11 hours or more per day are at a significantly increased risk of experiencing a depressive episode, according to a 2012 study. Too much work can also reduce or eliminate time available for healthy activities like physical exercise, which can improve mood and memory and prevent physical complications like high blood pressure and heart disease. Finally, excessive work can mean excessive stress, adding to the risk of high blood pressure and chronic heart disease.
Flexibility and Happiness
According to a recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics survey, a growing number of workers are electing to work part time. Workers may be craving more flexibility from their regular jobs, and switching to part time can be a way to preserve that flexibility (along with their health and sanity). If you don’t give your workers the flexibility they desire, your retention rates may plummet, and you may start noticing a regular pattern of your business losing employees.
The End Results
It can be easy to associate raw productivity with hours spent working, but there’s rarely a one-to-one correlation. What you truly want out of any working relationship is a positive end result, which comes in the form of higher productivity, higher employee retention and improved employee wellness. Offering flexibility at work to take breaks, relieve stress and improve personal health and wellness can help achieve those end results. If your employees spend less time at the office but get more done, you both win.
Introducing Flexibility to Your Startup
Flexibility may be hard to introduce, especially for traditional or conservative workplaces that emphasize and encourage working long, strict hours. Fortunately, you don’t have to do everything—and you certainly don’t have to do it all at once. You don’t have to go from an old-school, 50-hour-a-week, nose-to-the-grindstone workplace to a carefree, come-and-go pseudo-office with an organic smoothie bar in the cafeteria. Instead, you can implement new benefits of company culture gradually, one step at a time. This can help reduce culture shock for your employees and minimize the risk for you; you’ll likely get to see the benefits firsthand before investing additional time or resources into other wellness strategies.
One of the best benefits you can offer your workers is an in-house exercise program. Giving workers a chance to walk away from their desks and engage themselves in physical exercise can serve as a mental break from the action (and the stress), and can make your work environment feel less strict and inflexible. However, the real benefits may come in the form of mental and physical effects.
Your workers may be less susceptible to physical health problems like heart disease, which is among the most common causes of death in the United States. They may feel better and live healthier lives as a result. Not only that, but physical exercise may lead to higher levels of productivity, as chronic exercise can make people livelier, happier and more energetic. Add in the release of endorphins that exercise can trigger, contributing to higher levels of overall happiness, and you can see how an in-house exercise program could help you prevent morale problems.
Introducing more flexibility to the workplace can be a scary move if you’re accustomed to traditional, rigid schedules, but it may be a necessary move if you want the best from your employees. One simple change, like introducing a physical exercise program, could help your employees achieve more during the day, remain physically healthier and stay happier over the course of their careers with you. Which flexibility options you offer to your workers, and how you offer them, are completely up to you, but it can be in your best interest to offer something. Strict, inflexible offices may be killing their workers and setting themselves up for collapse.
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