We have all been there – still sat at our desks at 8pm at night, or not taking a lunch break……but why do we do it?! Are we putting pressure on ourselves to work extra hours, is there a deadline looming, or do we feel that the boss will think we don’t have enough work to do if we’re seen to be taking a lunch break?
According to new research from ILM, only 13% of workers feel that they have a good work/life balance. This must take its toll on the motivation and engagement of employees. Working towards and achieving a specific goal is motivational to most people, so working a few extra hours to achieve this, is probably acceptable to them. It’s when it becomes the norm to work extra hours, that there is an issue.
Is there such a thing as a 9-5 job anymore?
Surely a job should be done within the contracted hours you are employed for? With the odd exception of course….if there is an urgent deadline, then there aren’t many people that would mind working a couple of extra hours to help their company to achieve it. As long as they receive some sort of recognition for doing so. By recognition, I’m sure that most people would be happy with their Managers saying ‘thank you for the extra effort you put in to achieve that deadline’, rather than a monetary reward.
Recognition for working extra hours has to be treated carefully. Managers shouldn’t be seen to be encouraging their employees to stay at work just for the sake of it, but need to reward those that do put the extra effort in. So maybe recognition needs to be given for the results achieved, rather than just for additional hours worked.
Why are people working longer hours?
So the real issue is when an employee is expected to work additional hours every day. The first thing to look at is whether you are working extra hours because you have to, to get the job done, or whether you feel you should, to keep up with your peers, or to ensure your boss doesn’t think that they need to give you more work to do! It is fair to say that, any of these scenarios will be having a negative impact on employee engagement.
Maybe there is a training requirement? Maybe they should be able to get the job done within the working day, but just need a little help to be able to work smarter? Offering training can itself help motivation and employee engagement – helping employees to realise that you care, that you have seen there is an issue, and you want to help.
There is a lot to be said for Managers that empathise with their staff. I have worked for Managers that will not leave until the rest of their team have gone home. Not only does that put the pressure on you to get the job done as quickly as possible, but they are also there to recognise if there is a problem. It also gives you the opportunity to talk to them about your workload, something you don’t always get a chance to do if you are really up against it. Just feeling that I wasn’t alone in getting something done, that my Manager ‘cared’ about my workload, and was trying to get me out of the office as soon as possible, had a big impact on my motivation and engagement.
Managers have a big role to play in helping their employees achieve a better work/life balance. Helping them to achieve this goal will ultimately lead to a team of motivated and engaged employees, provided of course, that it’s done in the right way.