It seems to be the norm these days. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported recently that the average number of hours worked by all types of full-time employees in the U.S. (other than on farms) in February was 34.5 hours (up 0.1 hour from January). Hours for those in manufacturing: 40.9 hours (up 0.2 hours). For owners, who knows? Many owners I know work 60 hours a week or more.

Impact on health

Do long work hours adversely impact health? An article in a scientific journal suggests they can kill you! Working longer than eight hours increases the chances of coronary disease by 40% to 80%. You certainly don’t want this for yourself or your staff.

Reasons for overwork

There’s no single answer for why you and your staff are putting in long hours. Examine which of these possible reasons apply in your situation so you can address them properly.


The ability to work after regular work hours is all too easy these days, with smartphones, tablets, and WiFi just about everywhere you go. The result: the boundary of the workday has virtually disappeared.

What to do: Limit business time during off hours. Mute devices and wait until business hours to respond to business communications.

Smaller workforce

The recession (which continues for many small businesses despite economic indicators) forces many companies to make do with the staff they have, even if it’s smaller than would be optimum. Employees who are still with the company must handle more work than when the company was fully staffed.

Even more problematic are the companies that are now flourishing and could use more help. Even if they could afford the substantial added cost of new workers (wages, employment taxes, workers’ compensation, and employee benefits your current staff enjoys), there’s a sticking point that isn’t easily overcome. If a company becomes a “large” employer (more than 50 full-time employees), it’ll be subject to the employer mandate for providing affordable health coverage (or paying a penalty) starting in 2014. The determination of whether an employer is “large” is based on 2013 payroll.

What to do:
Some companies are alleviating overwork for existing staff by taking on part-timers (less than 30 hours a week). They can carry some of the extra work load without triggering the employer mandate in 2014. Determine whether part-timers may be a solution for your business.


Maybe it’s compulsion that drives some people to work longer hours that may be required by an employer or the scope of the job. Certainly, with the lack of job security these days, many feel compelled to show their commitment to the company in the hopes of increasing their worth to the business (which is meant to create some job security).

What to do: Be clear to workers what is and is not required of them. Simply sitting longer at a desk and looking busy doesn’t help your business. For some types of businesses, it makes more sense to set tasks or projects that need to be completed; when they are done, the workday can end. Sometimes this may require extended hours, but good planning and scheduling can help to limit employees’ hours.

Final thought

As the saying goes: Stop and smell the roses.


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