Sometimes, 60-hour work weeks are inevitable. Most of the time, however, they aren’t

Such long weeks creates a bad corporate culture and can undermine your leadership abilities.

By Ed Heffernan Managing Director, Barden

Sure, we’ve all had busy weeks: possibly because there are business-critical issues that just need to be fixed, or a major project with a tight deadline. Sometimes, you have no choice and something like a 60-hour week may be unavoidable.

However, if this is a regular occurrence, you’ve got a problem. Not only because doing this for an extended period of time will put you and your team at risk of burnout, but because it actually sets a bad example.

Working hard does not equal working smart 

A 60-hour work week sets a bad example. Not when it’s an exception, but definitely when it’s an expected norm.

Be careful not to give the impression that ‘staying late’ is something to be commended. It should be applauded when people do leave on time, having done everything they set out to do that day and your management style should reflect that.

Productivity is what makes the world go around

My biggest question has always been: why on earth wouldn’t you find a way to deliver the same results in a shorter time? If you can do your job in seven and a half hours a day, as opposed to 10, that’s a good thing, right?

In fact, it’s a great thing for everyone: a business will ultimately get more from you without impacting your work-life balance. And the same goes for your team. As a leader, you should be incentivising your team to find ways to do their jobs more efficiently, not encouraging ‘hard work’ and late nights as a measure of ‘effort’.

Stress hampers team performance

We all know that engagement and performance are intricately linked, and if your team is fed up and stressed from working enforced long weeks, it’s likely they are going to become disengaged. That continuous feeling of being under pressure inevitably evolves into a vicious cycle of performance decline.

The fact is, as a workforce, many of us are under stress. Statistics show that one out of five workers are experiencing unnecessary stress-levels because of work, and it’s well known that it’s a leading cause of sick leave. So, fixing this business culture imbalance is not only a personal priority, it’s a business one. As a leader, it is your responsibility to ensure your team is sufficiently resourced and supported.

What can you do to stop it?

It’s not an accident that you’re working long hours. You should always plan your week and schedule it all within working hours. Never be tempted to plan a 12-hour day, however.

Prioritise complex matters and table them in the morning when you’re fresher and problems don’t seem so daunting. Close your email inbox between certain hours to avoid distraction and accept the fact that it’s okay to not be available 24/7.

Above all, it’s about taking control and finding out how to strip out the inefficiency and non-value work that you and your team are doing. Focus on the problem areas and find ways to close-out time in your work day for ‘you’ and the tasks you need to deliver.

At the end of the day, your team will always be a reflection of you – let them pick up your good habits, not your bad ones.

Ed Heffernan is the Managing Director of Barden. A version of this column first appeared on accountancyireland.ie.

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