Long working hours crush creativity

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Time away from desks and synchronised breaks can make employees happier and more productive

Working longer than 55 hours a week is counterproductive and crushes creativity, according to Twitter’s VP of EMEA Bruce Daisley.

Speaking at the UNLEASH conference and expo in London yesterday, Daisley said: “The idea that the secret of success at work is working longer hours is not true.

“Longer hours may mean employees are doing more work but they are actually achieving less. We should be trying to achieve more in short bursts or periods of time.”

Daisley explained that research shows half of all employees who work long hours and check their emails outside of the workplace exhibit signs of high stress.

“Stress triggers the fear system and a big consequence of this is that fear crushes creativity and an individual’s capacity to generate new ideas,” he added.

In countries where employees work the fewest hours productivity levels are higher, Daisley highlighted. He pointed to two “megatrends” currently manifesting in the workplace, which are having the biggest impact on employee happiness.

“Emails and automation are the two key megatrends making employees unhappy,” he said. “A few years back employees were begging to be able to access their emails on their mobile phones. But this has brought the average working day from 7.5 hours up to 9.5 hours.”

Daisley went on to explain that there are some simple steps businesses can take to make their employees happier at work.

“Take a lunch break,” was his first tip. This gives workers a sense of renewal and refreshment that they can’t achieve when sitting at their desks, he advised.

His second tip was to encourage workers to be themselves. “Research shows that four-fifths of workers pretend to be someone else when they’re at work,” he explained. “Open-plan office culture has contributed to this, as it has knocked off the rough edges.”

Synchronisation was Daisley's third step to achieving employee happiness. He referenced a Bank of America experiment that switched from staggered employee breaks to synchronising them so that staff could take breaks together.

“Businesses tend to want to stagger breaks with the aim of increasing productivity, but the experiment found that employees being able to talk through challenges or concerns with their colleagues during breaks led to a 19% reduction in stress and a 23% increase in productivity,” he explained.

Daisley also advocated the use of workplace wellness programmes to create happier workers, saying that they remind people to eat and sleep well.

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