As summer begins, some workers look forward to kicking back a bit. But don’t even think about it if you work at a company where clocking insanely long hours remains a badge of honor and leaders don’t see the value of time on the beach.
Just last month, Ivan Glasenberg, the 57-year-old billionaire CEO of Glencore Xstrata, outspokenly told the media that he is not interested in helping his employees find work/life balance. He touts a tough, old-school 24/7 work ethic as a reason to buy shares in his commodity trading and mining company.
“We work,” he said. “You don’t come here to take life easy. And we all got rich from it, so, you know, there’s a benefit from it.”
Glasenberg, who boasts about his grueling travel schedule, said his company operates a hyper-competitive environment where if someone lets up, they get ousted by the guys below. “Some guy suddenly decides: I want to take it easier, I want to spend more time with the family’… an attack will come. I tell investors, come meet [my employees], and tell me who you think is going to lie at the beach.”
Even in an era of fun workplaces and flexible schedules, Glasenberg has the attitude that working your butt off is a great thing. It’s a formula that has worked for some companies for decades. But is it still what works today? Is working harder the answer to business success, or the problem?
We have seen the business reality: if you have shareholders to answer to, sell time as your product, or run a fast-paced business and want financial success, you give it 100 percent and demand employees do the same. But it’s an approach that comes with a cost, both both personally — in relationships and health — and corporately, when managers burn out.
A new study from Harvard Business Review says putting in more than 70 hours per week reduces work performance to roughly the same level as being inebriated. And a new FSU study on workaholics found that when employees habits fall far on either the low or high end of the “workaholism’’ scale, both the company and the employee are likely to suffer.
In other words, too much focus on work can fry enthusiasm and health. “At some point you are going to burn out, particularly when it’s not a choice,” says Wayne Hochwarter, the Jim Moran Professor of Business Administration in Florida State’s College of Business, who authored the survey.
“When in excessively low or high ranges, both the company and the employee are likely to suffer.”
Still, some leaders believe overwork is only possible if you are not having fun at work.
Advertising executive Jordan Zimmerman, much like Glasenberg, is a self-proclaimed workaholic who has kept up momentum over nearly three decades even when others insisted he would burn out. He believes cranking 24/7 is an absolute necessity in a service business and authors a blog called YouSleepWhenYouDie.com. “We live in a world of immediacy. When a client needs you, you have to be available.”
On its website, Zimmerman Advertising declares that employees work at the speed, velocity and intensity of retail itself. A graphic tracks the weekly performance of its 1,900 employees’ performance from the weekly number of boarding passes issued to staff (307) to the number of antacids chewed (492): “Some call it relentless. We call it a good week,” it boasts.