A new study from researchers at the City University of London suggests kicking back at work may actually be beneficial to your career in the long run.
Workers in the United States have always prided themselves on having stressful jobs and committing to long work hours. Studies have shown that American employees take fewer vacations and socialize less while on the job than other workers around the world. The work culture in America encourages people to believe that the key to advancement is hard work, which will lead to promotions, which leads to more money, which leads to greater happiness overall.
However, researchers say, their study showed them the opposite result. They found that Employees who work too hard can actually have a detrimental effect on their career and their overall well-being.
Researchers used data from more than 50,000 subjects in 36 European countries and analysed the effects of people working a lot of overtime, and their "work intensity." (Work intensity is defined as the effort people put into their daily job tasks).
That data included the worker's career-related outcomes, and whether the hard workers were given raises, promotions or recognition on a regular basis by their company.
Increase work intensity was associated with a reduction in the worker's well-being and overall inferior work outcomes the study suggests. That means, no matter how hard you work, if the end result isn't great, you're not all that likely to impress your boss that much.
"We were somewhat surprised to find that work effort, whether overtime or work intensity, did not predict any positive outcomes for employees," Dr. Argyro Avgoustaki, assistant professor of management at ESCP Europe Business School and Dr. Hans Frankort, senior lecturer in strategy at Cass Business School, the authors of the study, told INSIDER.
In fact, researchers say, the more people worked and the higher their work intensity, the more likely they experienced a reduction in their well-being and career-related outcomes (prospects, job security and recognition).
"Practitioners and policymakers worry a lot about long hours and overtime, yet our findings could imply that work intensity (i.e., the amount of effort per unit of time) might be the more pressing issue," researchers said.
Avoiding burnout is key. The study's authors suggest that people who take advantage of breaks and time off will have better career-related outcomes when they are at their most productive.
"One way for employees would be to use their discretion and opportunities for mental and physical recovery, through breaks and hours off work," Avgoustaki and Frankort said.
The study's authors also suggested that employers take it upon themselves to make sure their employees are getting the time off they need as well as giving them the freedom to work in ways that are convenient and productive.
The results are backed up by other studies, including one conducted by a New Zealand company that showed that a four-day work week led to an improvement in creativity and attendance improved. Employees reportedly used the extra day off to spend time with their families, exercise and run errands they wouldn't normally get to until the weekend.