Employees who put in too much effort perform worse, study says 

Why working hard could be BAD for you: Employees who put in too much effort perform worse and don’t get promoted, study says

  • Employees who constantly have high ‘work intensity’ have poorer well-being and perform worse
  • ‘Work intensity’ was defined as having tight deadlines and working at a fast pace 
  • They are then passed over for promotions and are unsatisfied with their job security 
  • Researchers say that more productivity will be seen if employers let workers choose when and how to work

We are told that hard work can lead to more promotions, a higher pay raise and general overall happiness.

But a new study has revealed that working too hard is not just bad for your overall health, but also for your career path.

Researchers from the University of London and ESCP Europe Business School found that employees who consistently put in extra effort reported poorer well-being as well as being unsatisfied with job security and promotions.

The team says that if employers relieve some of the pressure off of their employees – by letting them choose when and how they work – companies will see more productivity and loyalty from their workers.

A new study has revealed that working too hard is not just bad for your overall health, but also for your career path (file image)

For the study, the team looked at almost 52,000 employees from 36 European countries who participated in the European Working Conditions Survey.

Launched in 1990, the survey examines different aspects of working conditions, identifies groups at risk and monitors trends in the workplace.

The participants answered questions about ‘work-intensity’, well-being factors including stress and fatigue, and how happy they were with outcomes from their career such as job security and recognition. 

The researchers controlled their findings by comparing people who had similar jobs and education levels.

They found that those who repeatedly put in high ‘work intensity’ – defined as tight deadlines and working at a fast-pace – reported having poorer physical and mental health.

Additionally, employees reported that bosses were not particularly impressed by the extra hard work.  

‘One of the problems in increasing work intensity is that the quality and content of the work suffers,’ co-author Dr Argyro Avoustaki, an assistant professor of management at ESCP Europe, told Daily Mail Online. 

‘We think this is one of the negative associations in why workers say their bosses are not impressed.’

In other words, work intensity affects the quality of work, making bosses less likely to promote these employees – even though they were increasing their work intensity in hopes of being promoted.

‘It’s better to avoid both high work intensity and longer hours but, if you have to choose one, pick the longer hours,’ Dr Avoustaki said.

‘In many professions, people avoid breaks to get more done but we want workers to realize it might help you to take a break or slow down a little bit.

‘They might thing “work hard now but later there’s better job security or better opportunity” but this is bad for their health.’ 

The researchers say that one of the ways that workers can relieve some of the pressure is by choosing work hours or the method by which they complete their tasks.    

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‘One of the management practices that we study in the paper is discretion, which would be freedom for the employee to choose when to do the work and how to do the work,’ co-author Dr Hans Frankort, a senior lecturer at UCL, told Daily Mail Online.

‘Discretion doesn’t remove all of the negative associations but it can be considered as a partial remedy.’

Several countries have attempted to set limitations on the amount of hours and an acceptable work-life balance.

France has been the primary country to enact such measures, reducing the work week from 39 hours to 35 hours in 2000 and enacting the ‘right to disconnect’ law in 2017.

This law allows workers to not have to engage in work-related emails or messages after the end of the work day or during non-working hours with the belief that it interferes with employees’ private lives. 

Previous studies have shown that long work hours can lead to physiological problems in employees.

A study from the University of Southern California followed bankers for nine years and found that, by the third year, they often developed tics such as nail-biting or conditions like insomnia 

‘They experienced their bodies antagonistically “taking over,” “taking revenge,” or “fighting back”,’ wrote author Alexandra Michel, now a professor at UPenn. 

Other studies have shown that workers suffer from poor mental health, it results in billions of dollars of lost income. 

A study published last week by Pennsylvania State University found that poor mental health costs the US $53 billion dollars a year as employees take more days off and work slower

The authors say the findings prove that more funds need to be invested in mental health resources. 

They predicted that if these resources failed to improve within 20 years, that lack of productivity due to mental health will cost the global economy $16 trillion.

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