Long hours and good work are not created equal.
Dedicated employees can seem hard to find. Every leader wants people that put in the extra effort without being asked. Not only do they show up early and stay late, but they happily take on projects and meet tight deadlines, no questions asked.
Working hard and sleeping less has become somewhat of a bragging right. Everyone wants to look busy, whether to impress their boss or their colleagues. The more hours chained to your desk has become connected to how successful you are, or how successful you want to become.
We all want staff that care about their work and the future of the company. However, staying at the office for 14 hours a day is not creating skilled, productive, or effective employees. It's doing the exact opposite.
The term 'work smarter, not harder' definitely rings true, but leaders must take it one step further. We have to encourage our staff that instead of commending hard work, we put greater value towards actively engaged work. This will offer betters results for the company than emails sent out at 1am.
Expectations and company culture are set from the top down. That means you and your fellow management team are the only people that can change this accepted norm that long hours equates to how much you care.
Here are three places to start:
1. Stop rewarding bad behavior.
Reflect on the last five people you gave promotions, bonuses, or salary increases to. What was the driving force behind your decision? Giving credit when credit is due is an important initiative for every leader, as good work deserves good praise.
The issue lies when they're working long hours without a lot to show for it. Filling work hours with non-work related tasks may seem like they're a dedicated, but if they spent 10 out of the last 12 hours perusing Instagram or shopping online, their extended workday isn't really doing your company any good.
2. Create mandatory screen-free time.
At my company, Creative Niche, we've introduced 30 minutes of mandatory screen-free time in the afternoon. It doesn't matter what deadline or project you're working on; screens must be turned off. Our employees are encouraged to 30 non-disrupted minutes to relax, read, chat, or play foosball.
This has been a great way for our team to disconnect from the day job and recharge. It's also been valuable in building culture and camaraderie, as employees can have meaningful conversations outside of board meetings. We all need a break to decompress in order to engage with our task at hand.
3. Set SMART goals.
While leaders are typically impressed when an employee spends their Sunday morning at the office out of their own accord, just how valuable is the work they're providing? And furthermore, how happy are they to be there?
That's why it's important to set SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely. This will eliminate the idea that long hours equate to hard work, and shift to active, engaged work as a greater asset to the employee and the company.
SMART goals are critical to achieving successful results, as well as improving staff retention. When staff understand that your company doesn't value those who work 80 hours a week, they'll feel less inclined to burn the midnight oil and instead produce quality, rather than quantity.