Why Overwork Kills Productivity

Wednesday 23 May 2018
Behavioural Psychologists Reveal Confirm That Being Busy is Not a Marker of Productivity and Explain Why
Overworked women with head in her hands

The tendency to overwork is rife. Long days and endless out-of-office emails have become the norm: in January, CMI research showed stressed-out managers were working an extra 44 days a year thanks to an always-on culture that sees them over-commit to their roles, and take on too much work. However, this is not a marker of productivity.

Read more:The quality for working life study 

Having Too Much Work Damages Productivity

However, working hard does not mean working efficiently. One study found that those who are busy tend to work quickly and confuse this for working efficiently on self-report measures. Therefore, self-confessed busy employees often miss more deadlines that they think and take on too much.

Fatigue Damages Productivity

In addition, having too much work leads to fatigue which damages output. Studies put the maximum number of hours for an optimal work rate at 40 hours, broadly in line with the UK working week. Errors are said to increase by 50% when humans suffer from fatigue.

Accidental Managers Damage Productivity

Effective allocation of work is the responsibility of management and CMI has long made the case that ‘accidental managers’ contribute to the relatively low levels of UK productivity. In its Management Manifesto, published in the run up to the 2017 general election, CMI found that organisations with effective management and leadership development programmes have on average 23% better results and are 32% more productive. This means managers should receive training to delegate effectively and assess productivity.

Read more: The Management Manifesto

Solutions for Productivity

In this insights report we looked at 12 ways to improve productivity, which focused on day-to-day organisational skills. The productivity hacks include psychological goal-setting, as recommended by John Lewis chairman, Sir Charlie Mayfield CCMI.

Read: How John Lewis chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield says you can improve the productivity of your team

He told us: “Productivity starts with simple things such as setting targets, thinking about what success looks like, identifying what contribution people can make towards achieving that success, and then helping them understand the extent to which they’ve achieved it. It includes praising good performance, coaching and encouraging. It also means dealing with underperformance.” Managers, it’s time.

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