From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Long Working Hours Could Be Hurting the Workplace

Recent reports from industries as varied as health care and manufacturing indicate that what workers and the workplace need right now is a little time away from the job.

Costly errors, high turnover rates, and workplace health and safety are all at stake with today’s longer working hours, indicate the experts. And the long term effect of the extended workday or week ultimately takes its toll on the workplace itself.

“Rather than hiring people back as the economy improves and demand picks up, employers are relying on fewer people to put in more time to get the job done,” said Alex Kerin, Ph.D., in a press statement from Circadian Technologies. The company that specializes in 24/7 operations recently released a report that shows the impact of longer days on the workforce and how overtime can effect an extended-hours operation.

Circadian’s report indicated that even as little as a 10 percent increase in overtime could mean a 2.4 percent decrease in productivity, and performance could drop by 25 percent when white collar workers logged 60-hour-plus workweeks. “At many organizations with extended hours operations, some employees are at or beyond the point at which long hours will negatively impact productivity, health and safety,” said Kerin. “More output is achieved, but the number of hours worked per employee also increases, resulting in a lower output per hour,” he said.

Earlier this month, a panel of the Institute of Medicine called for better working conditions and shorter workdays for U.S. nurses. Their reasoning was that current work situations were resulting in medication errors, wasted time and overall crabby demeanors as well as the potential for high turnover rates in the industry. In a 1998 report, the Institute of Medicine found that medical errors cost up to $29 billion each year, in addition to potential lives lost. The Institute’s current recommendations are to limit nurses’ shifts to 12-hours and the overall workweek for nurses to 60 hours.

Even in other work environments, workers who are forced into overtime to compensate for economy-induced layoffs are starting to grumble. A survey by the Society of Human Resource Professionals found that eight out of 10 workers intend to look for new jobs as soon as the economy starts to improve. That, said consultant Gerald Ledford, senior vice president at Sibson Consulting in an interview with MSNBC, could result in a tab of $100,000 just to replace a middle manager.

Aside from an increased turnover rate and overall job dissatisfaction, working long hours has also been linked to other workplace ills, including a higher risk of injury, a higher rate of inaccuracies and errors, and even work-related stress. For workplaces that may not be able to beef up their staffs, however, certain ergonomics improvements to the workplace can benefit both worker and employer by making the work itself easier, and ultimately faster, to accomplish.

Sources: CNN Money, MSNBC