Burning the midnight oil makes you less productive and increases health risks, says research


Many of us work extended hours every day with the goal of getting more work done. The eight-hour work day is a thing of the past. Today, from employees to bosses, everybody wants to get much more done before they call it a day. Hence, the average day of a professional's life easily stretches to 12 to 14 hours, and even more for entrepreneurs running a business single-handedly.

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The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, but clinical research studies have shown that only 48 per cent of people actually follow a healthy sleep pattern.

In 2015, Sweden made an enthralling move towards a standard six-hour work day, as opposed to a typical eight-hour work day. Initially, this substantial decrease in work hours raised many eyebrows. Despite the reluctance, many businesses immediately implemented the change and the result, so far, has been a great achievement.

Professionals in Sweden have reported enhanced stamina, better sleep, increased focus, raised efficiency and boosted motivation. With decreased work hours, employees get plenty of time to relax their mind and spend more time doing things they love, like taking up hobby classes and spending more time with their family.

“Don’t just climb the ladder of success – a ladder that leads, after all, to higher and higher levels of stress and burnout – but chart a new path to success, remaking it in a way that includes not just the conventional metrics of money and power, but a third metric that includes well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving, so that the goal is not just to succeed but to thrive.” - Arianna Huffington, from her book Thrive

Unfortunately, unlike employees, entrepreneurs cannot afford to work for just six hours a day. With competition scaling up almost every day, startups need to ensure that they do as much as possible to get ahead of their competitors. This automatically stems the need to work long hours, sometimes burning the midnight oil, too. While a couple of protracted days in a week may not harm your health, regularly compromising on your sleep can definitely become a matter of concern. It will not just affect your health, but also your career goals. Before you burn out another night, remember that it is only making you less productive with every passing day.

Working nights and decrease in productivity

According to a study by John Pencavel conducted at Stanford University, the productivity of an employee falls drastically after working 50 hours per week. After a 55-hour workweek, it is highly unlikely that an employee will be able to get any work done. Furthermore, any person who works 70 hours per week will be only as productive as someone devoting 55 to 60 hours per week, the study says. This clearly indicates that your extra 15 hours a week are not even worthwhile. Perhaps, if you feel the need to work more than 55 hours a week, chances are that you are not giving your best in the first 50 hours or you have too much on your platter to work upon.

If you are one of those who often work nights, weekends and even holidays, remember that with each passing day, your productivity graph is just declining, regardless of how much you think you are contributing to your business. In this case, you need to develop a new work schedule to boost motivation and output.

Your health is important, more than anything else

Long work hours not only affect your productivity but also your health. Sleeping six to eight hours a day is not the key. What’s important is that you maintain a healthy sleep cycle to be able to enjoy good health and mental well-being.

A study published in a British medical journal, The Lancet, concludes that men and women who work more than 55 hours a week, have 33 per cent more risk of suffering from a stroke than those who follow a 35 to 40 hours workweek schedule.

It is pretty much clear that pushing yourself too much can lead to afflicted health and mental being, which eventually leads to less productivity. In short, when you burn yourself out, you end up achieving a lot less than what you could have by working in a short time. Give this a thought before you spend another night at your work desk!