A/N: An essay written for EHR101Introduction to Employment Relations. Grade: Pass.


The shift to a post-industrial economy has had many effects on the way companies interact with the marketplace and their employees.  The globalisation of the world’s economy has seen a notable shift in the way humans perceive the ‘work day’. Working longer hours has had a negative effect on employees and their relations within the workplace.  The effects these increased hours have had on the mental health, physical health and effectiveness of employees to do their jobs correctly has been seen to be an increasing issue for organisations.  These issues and relevant recommendations to amend aforementioned issues will be discussed in depth within this essay.

Health is expediently important for any employee to do their job correctly.  Most organisation’s have a policy that focuses on the physical health of their employees, but what about their mental health?  In Australia alone many employees work over the standard eight hours a day, forty hours a week (Evans 1996; Wooden 2000).  These increased hours impact heavily on the work/life balance, escalating worker stress levels.  As these stress levels become higher, symptoms of anxiety and depression begin to appear (Virtanen et al. 2011).  In fact, it has been proven in recent study of full-time male and female workers 51% of them worked over forty-eight hours a week (Kelley, 2001).

Organisations need to seriously consider the impact these lengthy hours have on the mental health of their employees.  Stress is the second most common workplace injury/illness in Australia alone (Loudoun, McPhail & Wilkinson, 2009). These issues of high stress, anxiety, and depression foster several concerns for companies.  The most prominent issue is that of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS).  When an employee becomes highly stressed this can manifest into serious physical and behavioural symptoms, which gravely impair the worker’s ability to make rational decisions (Loudoun, McPhail & Wilkinson, 2009; Virtanen et al. 2011). Not only is this a concern, but even temporarily increasing stress levels of an employee have been proven to still have a significant impact on physical and behavioural health up to three years after the incident (Amagasa & Nakayama, 2013).  Employers must consider effective ways in which to assist employees with stress management.  These recommendations will be discussed further later in the essay.

Physical health and well being of employees is usually covered by the company OHS policy.  However most companies do not take into account the issues associated with increased working hours.  There is abundant evidence that long hours significantly increase employee risk of injury (Deme, 2008).  People who work overtime (id est over their standard work hours) are more likely to suffer from medical issues, such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes and cancer (Bannai & Tamakoshi, 2014).  Increased hours also contribute to fatigue which is noted by Dembe (2009) to “…increase the likelihood for on-the-job injuries by 61%” (p. 195).  This then becomes not only an issue for the employee and employer but everyone in the workplace.

Employers need to consider the implications of these significant effects on employee well being. Personal experience has shown that this issue is not to be taken lightly; physical health issues caused by over work nearly hospitalized this writer work[once in 2008 and again in 2012.  It is essential that both employers and employees understand the implications that long hours have on physical health. Interestingly data from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare states (Bannai & Tamakoshi, 2014) “the number of workers suffering from cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, and mental disorders due to work has increased by about threefold in the last decade” (p. 5).  It seems the effects of long working hours are a serious issue globally.

Researchers all over the world have studied intensely the impact that longer working hours have on industrial accidents and injuries (Dembe, 2009).  The evidence stacks up in the negatives, suggesting that long shifts, with no recuperation time, increase the risk for harrowing injuries and compensation claims (Hanecke et al., 1998; Nachreiner et al., 2000). Considering in Australia alone, “1 in 12 people suffer illness or injury at work” (Loudoun, McPhail & Wilkinson, 2009, p. 256), employers seriously need to consider the implications this has on the organisation.  Recommendations for limiting OHS issues regarding physical health will be discussed later in this essay.

An employee’s ability to perform their job effectively is essential within the organisation.  Longer working hours have been considered an issue for organisational productivity for some time.  As studies by Bannai & Tamakoshi (2014) concluded, “longer working hours are associated with depressive state, anxiety, sleep condition and chronic heart disease (CHD)” (p. 15).  Taking into account sleep condition for a moment; if a worker is sleep deprived due to long hours this leads to a cognitive sleep pattern which can lead the employee to suffer insomnia.  This has a continued effect on the worker’s ability to perform their job correctly.  Continued issues in this area can lead to mistakes due to lack of judgement, potentially endangering stakeholders or others within the immediate civilization (Dembe, 2009).

Employers need to be aware of the serious effects that long hours have on business and worker productivity.  If employees consistently work over their scheduled hours this can lead to a multitude of issues, including stress, illness, and injury.  Studies have concluded that long hours contribute significantly to diminished performance in the workplace; this then leads to poor judgement and lack of concern for job safety (Dembe, 2009).  Further recommendations on increasing productivity will be discussed further in the next few paragraphs.

Workplace stress has been proven to be one of the most significant issues in OHS (Loudoun, McPhail & Wilkinson, 2009).  It is recommended that employers practice more efficient personnel management, in doing so; this will minimize the occurrence of unnecessary stress within the workplace (Loudoun, McPhail & Wilkinson, 2009). It is important for employers to provide their workers with adequate information on stress management.  This could be through the form of a brochure or a presentation allowing employees to see the signs and effects of stress (Loudoun, McPhail & Wilkinson, 2009). Providing a counselling service for employees who are struggling with stress or depression is imperative.  This service will decrease the likelihood of any employee unintentionally endangering anyone else through irrational decision making (Amagasa & Nakayama, 2013).

Physical health issues through overwork have a lasting effect on employees.  Every year over 200,000 Australians are prevented from working through work-related injury and/or illness (Loudoun, McPhail & Wilkinson, 2009).  Enforced annual leave and rostered days off can decrease physical health issues by 31% (Dembe, 2009).  Many companies encourage their workers to take this time for themselves and their families.  This also helps to re-establish the work/life balance. Ensuring employees are following the OHS guidelines (id est sitting correctly at their desk, lifting from the knees and so on) is considerably important.  Random checks of this policy would benefit the company considerably and anyone found not to be adhering to the policy should be issued a warning.  Studies found that only one in five employees take the ‘traditional’ hour-long lunch break and the majority take less than half an hour (Hills, 2013). Guaranteeing employees are taking the appropriate break times will also help to ease the physical health issues.

Increasing productivity within the business can sometimes be difficult for employers to implement, as most employees are motivated by different things.  A rewards system is sometimes one of the best ways to increase productivity in the workplace.  Bonuses or commission are commonly used in the sales field, while working for a flexi day is often more popular in the clerical professions.  This is the process of simply working only half an hour to an hour of unpaid overtime a day after one of two weeks of this the employee is entitled to one full paid day off. Flexible working hours are proven to have decreased stress, decreased fatigue and increased productivity (Schein, Maurer & Novak, 1977).  These are implemented by allowing workers the opportunity to choose when they commence work and when the finish.  Companies give employees ‘core hours’ in which they have to be at work, but there are blocks of time before and after which allows the employee the freedom to come and go as they see necessary (Schein, Maurer & Novak, 1977).

As we continue to move into a globalised world of employment we have discovered there are considerable differences in the way that Human Relations (HR) should be conducted.  This essay has analysed the negative effects of longer working hours on the employee and the workplace relationship.  It has made justified and supported recommendations to assist employers in solving the increased work hours crisis. Page Break


Works Cited

Amagasa, T. & Nakayama T. (2013). Relationship Between Long Working Hours and Depression: A 3-Year Longitudinal Study of Clerical Workers. JOEM, 55(8), 863-872.

Bannai, A. & Tamakoshi A. (2014). The association between long working hours and health: A systematic review of epidemiological evidence. Scandinavian Journal of Work Environment and Health, 40(1), 5-18. doi:10.5271/sjweh.3388

Dembe, A.E. (2009). Ethical Issues Relating to the Health Effects of Long Working Hours. Journal of Business Ethics, 84, 195-208. doi: 10.1007/s10551-008-9700-9

Evans, M.D.R. (1996). Workers putting in longer hours. WwA: Worldwide Attitudes, 27(5), 1-8.

Hall, S. (2013, January 25). Whatever happened to the lunch hour? DailyMail. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2268092/Whatever-happened-lunch-hour-How-breaks-reduced-just-29-minutes-busy.html

Hanecke, K., Tiedemann, S., Nachreiner, F. & Grzech-Sukalo, H. (1998). Accident Risk as a Function of Hour at Work and Time of Day as Determined from Accident Data and Exposure Models from the German Working Population. Scandinavian Journal of Work Environment and Health, 24(3), 43-48.

Kelley, J. (2001). Consequences of working longer hours. Australian Social Monitor, 4(4), 99-101.

Loudoun, R., McPhail R. & Wilkinson A. (2009). Introduction to Employment Relations (2nd ed.). Frenchs Forest, NSW, Australia: Pearson Australia.

Nachreiner, F., Akkermann, S., & Haenecke, K. (2000). Fatal Accident Risk as a Function of Hours into Work. In Hornberger, S., Knauth, P., Costa, G., &  (Eds.), Ergonomics in operational practice 17: Shift work in the 21st Century (pp. 19-24). Frankfurt, Germany: Peter Lang Publishers.

Schein, V.E., Maurer, E.H., & Novak, J.F. (1977). Impact of Flexible Working Hours on Productivity. Journal of Applied Psychology, 62(4), 463-465.

Virtanen, M., Ferrie, J.E., Singh-Manoux, A., Shipley, M.J., Stansfield, S.A., Marmot, M.G., Ahola, K., Vahtera, J., & Kivimaki, M. (2011). Long working hours and symptoms of anxiety and depression: a 5-year follow-up of the Whitehall II study. Psychological Medicine, 41, 2485-2494. doi: 10.1017/S0033291711000171

Wooden, M. (2000). The Transformation of Australian Industrial Relations. Sydney, NSW, Australia: The Federation Press.

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The Long Haul: The Negatives of Longer Working Hours by Sheridan Brownlie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
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