It All Adds Up: How the Rise in Working Hours Is Affecting Small Businesses

According to the Paychex Small Business Employment Watch, the weekly hours worked by small business employees is on the rise. As of September 2018, in the last 21 months, the average working week has increased by 55%, while wages have dropped. So, what does this mean for small businesses and their potential for growth?

How Many Hours Should Your Employees Work?

The subject of how many hours we should work is one of much debate. However, if we are to take a purely scientific view, decades of research recommends just 4 hours of creative thinking per day. This is because human brains aren’t built for the 8-9 hours of concentration and creativity we repeatedly subject them to. Research also shows that we are at our least productive in the afternoons after we have pushed past our 4-hour limit.

However, for most Americans, the average workweek far supersedes this, with most working between 30-40 hours on average.

What Does The Law Say?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) doesn’t offer any legal guidelines for how many hours an employee should work in the United States. However, the law does dictate that employers must pay non-exempt workers time-and-a-half for any hours worked above 40 per week. An exempt employee who is paid a salary is not entitled to overtime pay.

Because there are no laws regulating full-time employment for compensation and benefits purposes, it’s up to small business owners to determine how many hours per week are considered full-time, which is where the danger lies. There is a temptation to push your employees to get more done. However, increasing the average workweek is often counterproductive.

The Dangers of Overworking Your Employees

It’s easy to expect your employees to work over 40 hours a week, especially when there is a deadline looming or budgets are tight. However, studies repeatedly show that working more than 40 hours a week is bad for health and productivity.

By overworking your employees, you increase their risk of:

  • Cardiovascular illness
  • Stroke
  • Stress-related illness
  • Depression
  • Unhealthy weight gain
  • Increased alcohol consumption
  • Relationship problems
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Poor concentration
  • Decreased immunity
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Poor memory

Your business will also suffer in the following ways:

  • Higher levels of absence
  • Fatigued staff
  • Poor productivity levels
  • More mistakes
  • Higher injury and hazard rates at work

Not only will overworking your employees impact their ability to problem-solve and think creatively, but it could also cause stress long-term health problems. Even if you’re not concerned for the welfare of your team (which you should be), you need to consider the impact on your business.

What’s The Solution?

“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to,” Richard Branson

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you just need to work more to be more productive. Both you and your employees could benefit from better working hours regulations and a new focus on wellness.

A fair working week is vital if you want to get the most out of your employees, but an employee wellness program will encourage them to go the extra mile and help you retain your best talent.

Success Stories:

A high-profile example of this is Google. The global search engine company offers an all-encompassing wellness program featuring onsite healthcare services, including a doctor, physical therapist, and massage services. They also offer access to fitness centers, classes, and community bikes.

As a Google employee (or “Googler”), you can even take cooking classes, coding degree programs or guitar lessons, to name a few. The company also offers its workers financial wellness resources, such as access to financial advisors and financial planning services. Google employees are also granted flexible hours, vacation time, and volunteer time, helping them to achieve a better work-life balance.

Not all companies have Google’s budget, however, particularly not small businesses. Luckily, there are smaller steps you can take to achieve employee wellness:

• Offer Flexibility

These days, a lot of work can be done outside the office, so why not offer a little flexibility for your team? You might allow staff to work from home one day a week or even cut your overheads dramatically by employing teams remotely. You can also offer more flexible working hours and vacation time or allow staff to choose their own working schedules.

• Provide Health Incentives

Employee health benefits everyone, not just the individual. The fewer people you have off sick, the fewer resources you’ll waste, and the more productive your team will be. So why not combine your employee wellness program with an employee incentive program? You might offer a prize for workers hitting sporting milestones, or maybe up their insurance premium?

• Offer employee benefits

Benefits help keep your employees engaged and motivated, and some can even improve health. For example, you might have a workplace doctor who attends once a week, a regular yoga session, meditation breaks or even healthy lunch offerings. According to a survey by One Medical, 59% of employees say employee benefits are “very important” to how they feel about their jobs and their employers.

To Conclude

Maintain Reasonable work schedules

While overworking your salaried employees may not get you into trouble with the law, it does spell trouble for your business. Not only will you struggle to retain your best talent, but you may also face unexpected costs due to employee stress and sickness.

Pay attention to wellness

With a whole host of smaller companies offering wellness packages to employees, more and more businesses are prioritizing employee wellness. Rejecting the needs of your employees will set you behind your competitors and make your team want to jump ship.

When times are tough, and budgets are tight, it’s tempting to try to squeeze more from your employees. However, asking your staff to work more than 40 hours a week is not only bad for their health, but it’s bad for your business. As companies like Google have shown, providing a fair working week, promoting employee wellness and offering health-inducing benefits are paramount to business sustainability and success.

Timothy Kelly

Timothy Kelly

Tim has been a writer for over 20 years covering financial markets and small business. In addition to writing about the financial markets, Mr. Kelly writes extensively about digital marketing and SEO. Mr. Kelly attended Boston College where he studied English Literature and Economics, and also attended the University of Siena, Italy where he studied studio art. Mr. Kelly has been a decades-long community volunteer in his hometown of Long Island where he established the community assistance foundation, Kelly's Heroes. He has also been a coach of Youth Lacrosse for over 10 years. Prior to volunteering in youth sports, Mr. Kelly was involved in the Inner City Scholarship program administered by the Archdiocese of New York. Before creating ForexTV, Mr, Kelly was Sr. VP Global Marketing for Bridge Information Systems, the world’s second largest financial market data vendor. Prior to Bridge, Mr. Kelly was a team leader of Media at Bloomberg Financial Markets, where he created Bloomberg Personal Magazine. Contact Tim