Wanna get more done? Stop working late. No, seriously

The 8-5 office cycle has been a staple of the modern workplace since only God knows when. I grew up watching my dad work an 8-5 job . I’ve had my fair share of 8–5 gigs in my career.

The 8-5 work cycle is one of those things we do without questioning. Like, why do we give roses on Valentine’s Day instead of hibiscus or sunflowers?

I don’t know. We just accept it for what it is.

But it’s about time we revisited this practice, especially as the modern workplace has evolved rapidly over the past two decades.

There may be a romantic side to the idea of working all day long. Pop culture is rife with stories of “self made”, hard working entrepreneurs; men and women who burned the midnight oil and put in the extra hours, sacrifice and whatnot just to bring their ideas to reality (and eventually profitability).

That’s the way the story usually goes. But science presents a different reality altogether.

A bulk of research studies have revealed that overworking, and the stresses that inherently follow, lead to some serious health, workplace and personal issues.

In a study of consultants by Erin Reid, a professor at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, managers could not tell the difference between employees who actually worked 80 hours a week and those who just pretended to. Numerous studies by Marianna Virtanen of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and her colleagues (as well as other studies) have found that overworking and the resulting stress can lead to all sorts of health problems, including impaired sleep, depression, heavy drinking, diabetes, impaired memory, and heart disease. Another research also suggests that as we burn out, we have a greater tendency to get lost in the weeds.

I could go on.

Our culture frowns on the laid back, easy going worker. Never mind the fact that he gets his tasks done, and meets all his deadlines. The fact that he desires to leave the office early gives the impression of slothfulness. Employers would rather you stay in the office till 5pm, (or what is referred to as Close of Business). I hope you see what’s wrong with that line of thinking.

What are the negative effects of working long and late?

Lower creativity

The longer you tackle a problem, the lower your creativity dips. Tunnel vision is a result of focusing on a problem too long. And tunnel vision is the antithesis to creative and disruptive thinking. Creative thinking needs a clear and alert mind. Every creative professional will tell you from experience that, taking a break from trying to solve a problem allows your subconscious mind to process the information and ‘join the dots’ so that the solution presents itself.

Lack of proper work-life balance is dangerous for mental and physical health

People whose life are all about work and their career usually face midlife crises and suicidal tendencies when things go awry. The reason being, the business was the entirety of their life. Having committed their lives to building it at the detriment of family and other meaningful relationships, they lack the support system to weather those dark times.

Sleeping disorders

Overwork can be a nightmare for our sleep cycles. Stress, staring at computer screens, or simply not allowing yourself to “decompress” before heading off to bed can lead to erratic sleep patterns. There are a lot of employees who go to bed with work on the brain, dream about work and wake up still thinking about office tasks. This is as good as not sleeping at all. A consistent lack of sleep, or “chronic sleep debt” has been shown to raise the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and obesity.

Tired people make bad decisions and react poorly to unexpected events.

The truth is, times have changed. Long hours doesn’t automatically mean more productivity.

So, what should you do?

Our advice is, fit your work into shorter hours and force yourself to find more productive ways of working. Work smarter rather than longer and harder. Take time to step back and identify where time is lost in your work. Evaluate which of your activities add value. Eliminate the fluff. Standardize and simplify routine tasks.

And may the force be with you.

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