15 February 2017

Long Hours Working Culture – dangers and solutions

Long Hours Working Culture – What is the danger, what is the solution?

Those who choose an extreme long-hours working pattern, regularly if not always putting in 60+ hours per week, forfeit many of the basic tenets of wellbeing that enable humans to thrive.

What is the psychological profile of the extreme long-hours employee? What’s the solution for employers who are concerned about the mental, emotional and physical health of these employees?

Long hours working culture tends to be found in certain industries such as finance, law, professional services, media and medicine.

Some extreme long hours workers are the individuals who work quietly on their own, late into the evening, hours after everyone else has left, most nights if not every night. Then there is the other breed of extreme long-hours workers, often staying extremely late alongside and competing with their peers, night after night. These teams of men and women are often encouraged by more senior staff to push out 12-15 hour days, rarely taking a lunch break away from their desk, missing out on the wellbeing initiatives provided by increasingly concerned HR teams.

It can be helpful to understand the possible psychologies behind the type of people who choose the extreme long-hours working pattern, and to know about possible solutions for supporting and providing a duty of care to these individuals.

Possible Psychology of the Extreme Long-Hours Worker:

In order to thrive as human beings, we need meaningful relationships, adequate daylight and fresh air, regular nutrition and hydration, adequate restful sleep, physical exercise and adequate relaxation.

When people deprive themselves of many, if not all, of these basic human needs due to working 12+ hours per day plus commute time on a regular basis, over time they suffer emotionally, mentally and physically. This is the reality of the men and women in extreme long-hours working patterns.

So what might be driving those who put their basic needs aside for the long hours working culture?

For the late-night lurkers, those individuals who tend to quietly stay extremely late, night after night, the issue might not just be “too much work to do” or “I get more done when there’s no one else in the office”. Often the underlying reason is a desire to avoid relationships at home, perhaps loneliness, or having to go back to an empty home. The workaholic is often someone who wants to be away from difficulties in their personal relationships or is avoiding emotional intimacy with their partner, wife, husband, children or others. Emotional intimacy is often a struggle for people who grew up with little or no emotional intimacy from their own parents or carers. These people often find solace in long working hours, but are likely to be neglecting their own wellbeing.

For those who choose to work in teams and in roles which are notorious for their extreme long-hours working patterns, it is often not just the sky-high salaries and career goals which draw them to the culture and keep them hooked in. Issues around perfectionism, low self-esteem, addictive behaviour, being raised in a household with very high expectations, high stress and anxiety, trauma, alcoholic or emotionally unavailable parents or carers can often lead to a person choosing the extreme long-hours working pattern.

Mental ill health flourishes in high-pressure workplaces where demanding hours and a high workload are the norm. Despite appearing to be highly functioning, driven and fiercely independent individuals, people who fit these patterns are often susceptible to stress-related mental health problems, and rarely seek out emotional support for their vulnerabilities. They are at a significantly high risk for alcohol and drug dependency, sleep disorders, food control issues, anxiety and depression, self harm and other anxiety-related disorders.

Providing support to these valuable, hardworking employees is vital for their own mental and emotional wellbeing. Short and long-term sickness absence, performance management issues, burnout, mental breakdowns and physical health issues all come at a cost to the individual.

It is also crucial for employers to provide the sort of duty of care that will protect the company or firm from the financial risks of stress-related absenteeism, presenteeism and potential litigation.

A solution:

Our company provides confidential, one-to-one Wellness Sessions in the workplace for extreme long-hours workers, and for other potentially vulnerable individuals. Our Wellness Sessions specialists are highly qualified and experienced counselling psychotherapists with training in workplace stress management. We provide these sessions in the workplace in order to effectively meet the needs of extreme long-hours workers who will almost never take time out of the workplace to seek emotional support.

The confidential one-to-one Wellness Sessions take place in a quiet meeting room or office in your workplace, and run for 50 minutes each, usually on a fortnightly or monthly basis.

Many of our clients in finance, law, media, advertising and medicine will make these sessions compulsory for employees who work 60+ hours per week, or for those who are known to be struggling with anxiety, depression or who are returning from stress-related illness.

The Wellness Sessions are a chance for employees to offload to a trustworthy, impartial professional in a completely confidential session. Issues discussed may include self-esteem and perfectionism tendencies, relationship issues inside or outside the workplace, anger, loneliness, stress, anxiety or panic issues (including practical stress management techniques) obsessive compulsive tendencies, alcohol and drug dependency, eating issues, self-care and general emotional support.

Our Wellness Sessions are completely confidential for the employees and also for the companies that hire us to deliver the services. We do not disclose our client list for Wellness Sessions due to the strict interpretation of confidentiality by our governing body, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. All our counselling psychotherapists are BACP registered members and approved by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care.

Please get in touch if you’d like to have a conversation around our confidential one-to-one Wellness Sessions in your workplace and to tackle the dangers of extreme long hours working culture.

[email protected]


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