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Against Crunch Culture, Why Overly Fixating on Productivity Isn’t Productive

With all the tools and systems available in the modern workplace, employees can get an incredible amount of stuff done in a shorter amount of time. Workers have never been more productive. But due to this efficiency, there is an incentive to add even more to the workforce’s plate for the sake of boosting productivity. This is the crux of crunch culture. So for all those fixated about the metrics, here are a few stats to take note of. Stanford University professor Jeffrey Pfeffer’s research for his book, “Dying for a Paycheck,” shows that:
  • 60% of employees in the US have reported that workplace stress made them sick.
  • 7% said they have been hospitalized. 
  • And due to this, US employers lose $300 billion a year. 
  • Workplace stress may also be behind 120,000 excess deaths each year. 

How Passion and Drive are Used by Crunch Culture

This overwork epidemic is present in almost every field. Even, and especially, in the video game industry. In the Netflix series Patriot Act, Hasan Minhaj explores the industry’s notorious crunch culture and how passionate employees who love making video games are manipulated and cajoled into working grueling hours. perpetual overtime is the norm and people end up being burned out – consumed – by the very industry they love.   This is in line with the findings of research from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Professor Aaron Kay’s study showed that if people are passionate about what they do, they are more vulnerable to exploitation. And this is seemingly justified by their love for the work. It’s seen as more acceptable to make passionate employees do more work than employees who don’t have the same drive. This includes uncompensated and demeaning labor. Obviously, crunch culture has a lot of adverse consequences for the workforce, which is why the Jack Ma approach is not best for business  

It Doesn’t Have To Be Like this 

Workers are more productive than ever before. We’ve already established that. But instead of trying to get them to do even more labor in shorter amounts of time, can’t we be satisfied with their output?  Can’t quick and efficient completion of tasks be rewarded with downtime, instead of even more work?   Or else it will be like Forbes’ description of how very productive employees get punished: When you finish your work quickly, you are given more work, creating an incentive to slow down (not in the company’s best interest, but certainly in yours)! When you get a lot of work done, your manager expects that high volume of output from you and will be disappointed if you fall from your high-output standard. Less productive employees are held to a lower standard (but paid the same as you).  

Everyone Wins With Workplace Wellness 

It might be surprising, but it turns out that giving people enough time to rest, is actually beneficial. Same with not bombarding them with more work after they’ve completed their tasks. It is also the morally right thing to do.  Harvard Business Review has reported on the benefits of Wachovia Bank’s energy management program. With this, 60% of participants reported a positive impact on their relationship with clients. And 71% reported positive impacts on their productivity and performance.  Singaporean company Shopee has deployed nap pods in its premises and encourages its employees to sleep on the job. Poor sleep is linked to productivity loss. So by promoting adequate amounts of sleep they’re helping their workers remain effective (and healthy). Maintaining health and wellness at work is really important. We’ve explored ways to avoid overwork and recharge your energy levels. But while employees can try out all sorts of lifehacks, any real change that will significantly impact and improve people’s lives has to come from the top.  Our Virtual Assistant services and Virtual Teams help clients attain better work-life balance. Running a startup or an SME isn’t easy and it’s important and healthy to re-focus on what’s actually important in life. This view can be extended to everyone else in the workforce, whether it’s in-house employees doing overtime in their cubicles, or overseas Virtual Assistant and remotely-working staff. These essentials should not be reserved as a privilege for those in higher positions.  So let’s promote healthier, better workplaces. It’s the right thing to do, and there are also tangible benefits to this. It’s time to step away from crunch culture. 

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