It’s Time to Spring Clean your Bad Workplace Habits

Do your staff have a tendency to check their work emails out of hours? Eat their lunch at their desks? Work overtime regularly? Then it’s time to clean up your workplace’s bad habits.

Employee engagement can really suffer from bad workplace habits such as a competitive culture that involves working through lunches, staying late and continuing to work out of the office.

There is a lot of confusion between busy employees and employees that are productive. An idea which has been heightened by economic uncertainty – making some employees keen to look as though they’re doing more than their colleagues by staying later, to make sure they keep their job.

A spring clean of bad workplace habits means employees won’t just reap the benefits – employers will benefit from a happier, more engaged workforce too.

Finished for the day? No more checking emails!

We’ve all been there: you’re leaving work having sent emails that need a response and get a reply at half nine in the evening. What should you encourage your employees to do? Reply, or wait until the morning? If you do the former, are your staff ever switching off from work and getting some rest?

What may seem trivial has been dragged into the courts, with French workers winning a legal right to not check work emails out of hours, citing the always-on culture with smartphones, and having a right to disconnect from work.

The idea of ‘work-life balance’ is a hot topic in office culture. The Mental Health Foundation refers to an uneven work-life balance as the “biggest and most pressing challenge to the mental health of the general population”, with one-third of those surveyed saying that they are either unhappy or very unhappy about the time they devote to work.

Checking emails doesn’t just affect employees’ mental health. A study into health effects of working from home found that checking your work email at home, or taking a call from the boss on weekends, can lead to psychological, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular problems.

If you’re a business, how do you encourage workers not to check their emails once the office doors have closed? It all comes back to your company culture – is there an expectation to work more and do you have the power to make the change yourself?

If so, communicate clearly to your employees what is expected out of the office, and cite the reasons for not feeling obliged to check emails, such as burnout and a better work-life balance.

Will everyone stop checking their emails out of work? It’s hard to say, as smartphones and tech flexibility have changed working culture forever – but still, it’s beneficial to point out the potentially harmful health implications and set an expectation.

Encourage better interaction between colleagues

employee advocatesIt’s so easy to eat your sandwich at your desk and carry on with your work, but is it having a negative effect on your mental state? We are social creatures, whether people care to admit it or not, and social interaction is crucial to employee wellbeing.

In fact, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that speaking to your colleagues is actually productive. So workplace chatter is good in moderation – and part of this can be encouraging staff to just break away from work on their lunch and get to know their colleagues more.

As well as increasing productivity, socialising with your colleagues has been shown to reduce stress and blood pressure levels, and can even reverse the effects of negative experiences.

It doesn’t just have to be interaction with your colleagues – getting away from your desk entirely can have an effect on your productivity.

Alyssa Spatola, a journalist at Huffington Post, took part in a month-long Work Well initiative which involved taking a full lunch break away from her desk, and noticed immediate effects despite her initial doubts:

“Ultimately, no one cared or even noticed that I took my lunch break. My work did not suffer from my brief absence. If anything, I felt recharged and more productive when I returned.”

With most offices, a traditional lunch break is split between 12-2pm, so why not encourage your colleagues to lunch together? Whether this is through providing informal breakout spaces or organising a team outing, it can have a big impact. Gallup reports close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50%, helping with staff retention.

Cut down on overtime

Much is made of working overtime, with a common myth assuming that the longer employees work, the more work they will produce. But is that always the case? Yoshie Komuro, CEO of Tokyo-based company Work Life Balance Co. Ltd, argues that spending more time at work worsens employee output. Komuro cites Japan’s working culture as an example:

“The number of Japanese people who work overtime, more than 60 hours, is higher than any other country, but the contributing value of each individual is the lowest among the industrialised countries.

“Our brain can concentrate only for 13 hours after we wake up. After that, our concentration is as bad as drunk driving.”

It’s not just Japan that is feeling the effect of overtime. Last year, workers in the UK worked the equivalent of £33.6bn of overtime for free, with over 5 million people working on average an extra 7.7 hours a week unpaid, according to a study for Trades Union Congress.

Not only are there financial costs to your workforce, which can demoralise your staff, it can also have drastic health repercussions. The European Heart Journal found that working an extra three or more hours a day shows a 60% increase in heart-related illness such as non-fatal heart attacks.

We’re not saying overtime is always a bad thing – naturally, there will be events or seasons that happen within different industries that may require more attention.

However, the expectation to consistently work extra hours needs to be cut out of your company culture for both your business’ and your employees’ sake.


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