When Friday rolls around and your employees walk out the door, let them.
That means encouraging them to refrain from work for the entire weekend.
No calls. No emails. No paperwork.
Employees who can truly break away from work will feel refreshed come Monday.
A National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health report of collective overtime studies sums it up best: “Overtime was associated with poorer perceived general health, increased injury rates, more illnesses, or increased mortality.”
Studies show workers who treated their weekends like a vacation were more likely to return to work happier on Monday. As an employer, it’s wise to encourage your employees to not work weekends and actively celebrate their time off.
When your team is overworked and stressed, it shows up personally, professionally, and physically.
Here’s a deeper look at why encouraging employees to unplug over the weekend is a must:
Physical Health Risks Increases With Overtime
Workers subjected to overtime hours increase their risk of numerous health issues, but especially physically. Stressed-out employees logging more hours on the clock tend to drink more and gain more weight.
Other physical health risks of clocking too many hours:
- Heart issues
- Physical fatigue
- Sleep problems
A study published in Occupational Medicine found excessive overtime work has been blamed for several sudden deaths caused by cardiovascular diseases like strokes. High levels of stress are often a contributing factor.
Additionally, if your company requires employees to sit for long periods of time, health issues like back problems and obesity can develop over time. To put it into perspective, sitting just five or more hours per day is the equivalent to smoking 1.25 packs of cigarettes.
Overtime Impacts Overall Mental Health
It’s not just physical health that suffers from overtime work hours, either.
While overtime might mean more money for workers, it also comes at another cost: A mental health one. Workers who put in overtime generally have higher rates of anxiety and a greater risk for depression.
Depression in particular can plague those who work too hard. Both men and women were found to be impacted by depression symptoms due to working 55 hours or more weekly, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.
Working too many hours can lead to exhaustion, which in turn can contribute to chronic absenteeism, missing work for additional therapy appointments, and more.
If employees can’t mentally check out of work even when they’ve physically clocked out, it can lead to severe mental distress. Remind them that there’s no work too important that it jeopardizes their mental state.
Productivity Levels Plummet With Overtime
Working more hours will get extra work done, but the quality of work will suffer. Studies show working 60 hours a week for two months is actually less productive than working 40 hours a week in the same period.
Overall, the effect is cumulative and has a domino effect.
If employees feel their quality of work is dipping, they may feel frustrated and anxious. These emotions can overwhelm and reduce the amount of output, especially if they're already exhausted from working too many hours.
The Importance of Time Away from Work
Time away from work gives the brain time to complete important processing during down time. It’s been proven that creativity flourishes when people can change up their daily habits and experiences.
Time away from work can:
- Reduce stress levels
- Improve productivity and creativity
- Help prevent employee burnout and turnover
Encourage employees to take scheduled breaks during the day to refresh and revive their concentration, creativity, and decision-making processes. Equally important, employees must break away from work on the weekends and on vacation to enjoy the true benefits of time off.
What About Vacation Time?
Vacation can be a good stress reliever, but the effects can fade fast, unfortunately.
Before they even come back from vacation, employees are thinking about the work piled up. Help employees forget about their work worries by limiting the amount of tasks waiting upon returning from vacation.
When you make it your company's policy to truly enjoy vacation, employees won't come back as stressed.
Additionally, encourage the mindset of weekends as mini-vacations.
Weekend “vacations” don’t have to be extravagant. It’s more the mindset of being away from work and making the weekend count as something special that benefits employees the most.
Encourage Time Off for Better “Time On”
Allow your employees time away from work to refresh their minds and bodies to prevent burnout. Taking time off from work is important for mental and physical health, stress management, and productivity.
When workers can escape the stresses of the office fully — meaning they don’t have to check-in over the weekend — they can make each weekend a mini vacation.
Keeping regular working hours creates more productive employees, increases work satisfaction, and helps prevent employee burnout. Less-stressed employees means healthier and happier employees.
The mind and body both need rest. If neither gets the chance to do so, burnouts are more prone to happen. Work can wait, but mental and physical recharging cannot.
If you want to protect your company’s best assets — your employees — let them go home for the weekend, completely work-free.
Want to create a healthier work environment? Check out our recent post about creating a Blue Zone office.