In start-ups to high-growth companies, too many founders and employees blindly advocate the value of chronically working long hours. "I'm so busy" is the mantra of hustlers, gladiators, and grinders. Yet, the habits of this trio of hard workers do not make them role models. The consequences can be dangerous to their health: type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, musculoskeletal issues, depression, anxiety, just to name a few.
Working hard is not a bad thing. However, if you continuously sacrifice time with family, friends, and yourself for "getting one more thing done," you undermine your long-term effectiveness. Researchers from Sweden found that workers who continuously put in 60 - 80-hours a week are at a higher risk of neurological dysfunction.
A business owner with poor health is a risk to the company's longevity. On the flip side, a company culture that celebrates long work days tacitly approves of weakening employees' health and limiting their performance.
Company culture is the shadow of its leaders--good or bad. Founders and owners can choose to mitigate the ill-effects from stress, fatigue, and other health problems. Leaders who wish to implement business solutions that support the emotional, cognitive and physical well-being of their employees will outlast their competition.
It is important to recognize that the work we do shapes our identity. When we do our best, we feel good about contribution and of our skills. However, it's hard to have a positive perspective about work and of ourselves when we are under the pressures of an unrelenting workload.
Compounding the problem of poor health is the lack of work recovery. Work recovery is the downtime we use to do something that's not work-related. The unrealistic, and often unspoken expectation, that employees put in time after the workday ends puts into motion a vicious cycle. It's a cycle that fuels fatigue and burnout.
Companies need to prioritize changes that support healthy solutions for an overworked workforce. Here are three foundational solutions that can make a difference:
Encourage naps. A 10-20-minute nap during the day can help solve fatigue health issues, says Christopher Lindholst, CEO, and Co-Founder of MetroNaps. Lindholst's company has placed its nap pods in forward-thinking organizations like Facebook and HuffPost.
"Working hard doesn't include wearing ourselves down," Lindholst tells me. He helped found MetroNaps after finding people sleeping at work. He believes naps should be part of a company's culture. "Know your company's busy seasons. [In these times] monitor employees' constant 'on' mode." One way to help leaders understand employees' sleep patterns is through the nap pods, or EnergyPod, as MetroNaps named them. The pods provide data analytics to help managers learn from their employees' nap patterns, how long and when, for example.
Educate managers about sleep. Educate your company's leaders on signs of fatigue and distress during the busy seasons or in employees prone to burnout: irrational behavior, impaired judgment, increased forgetfulness, increase in workplace accidents, decrease in performance at work, increase in health problems.
Know your sources of energy. At The Energy Project, the consulting company educates its clients on the four sources of energy that humans need for high performance: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. The company's founder, Tony Schwartz, wrote, "Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance." When we use the four sources of energy to help us spend and recover energy, according to Schwartz, we can be more fully engaged in our work and life.
Indeed, there are other solutions to counter the deleterious effects of working too much: daily exercise, a healthy diet, and even a practice of mindfulness and meditation. What's most important is to design a solution that works for your company and culture.
In America, we believe hard work is key to success. Success, however, is best sustained by able bodies, creative minds, and people living fulfilling lives. Wise owners and founders understand that results cannot be at the cost of its employees. It is because of them.