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While the global economic outlook remains unsettled, project-based work is increasing which is an efficient way of working that can benefit employers and their staff. However, it’s important for companies to be mindful that it can result in stress and longer working hours for employees, which is not healthy or sustainable for extended periods. Employers should make sure they are clear about roles and delivery expectations, improve alignment of employee skill sets and job requirements and hire interims to support employees at risk of burnout.

This quarter, Hudson interviewed employers to find out about their employees’ working hours and whether this has increased compared to a year ago, whether increased levels of burnout are evident among their employees as well as effective methods to prevent employee burnout at work.

Workload

Key Findings

  • The standard working week is 37 hours. 90.3% of employees say they are working more than this.27
  • The vast majority of employees are working 40 or more hours per week (90.3%), with the highest proportion working a 40-50 hour week (which is the highest in the Asia Pacific countries surveyed) and just over a quarter working 51-60 hours per week.
  • More than a quarter of employees are working more hours than they were a year ago and more than half state that their workload has increased in the same period.
  • Furthermore, more than half of employees report that their workload has increased – largely due to increasing projects (72.1%) and greater demand from customers (51.2%) and to a lesser extent, decreased team sizes (21.5%).

 

Insights

  • Projects have become the norm with businesses ‘flying while they build the plane’. Many employees are focused on their business as usual commitments during the day and working on projects at night. This is a double-edged sword as employees are exposed to great work and opportunities for career development, but it also means they are working harder and longer. Many employees are prepared to do this however there is often not much (if any) downtime between projects to recharge.

    By their nature, projects produce extreme ebbs and flows in work which some organisations do not have the resources to deliver. Contingent workforces can help alleviate the strain, and the ability to introduce key skills sets can have the added bonus of up-skilling the team, while ensuring projects are delivered on time.

    Hours worked do not necessarily translate into increased productivity. Employers need to set clear expectations and goals measuring performance on whether these are achieved or not, not the hours or work that has gone in to trying to achieve them.

    In a project-driven environment, success is often based on employees’ cognitive ability and behavioural traits. The ability to pick up information and analyse quickly, effective task management and prioritisation (particularly understanding what can wait), the ability to articulate actions required and desired outcomes are important. Employers must use techniques like personality and psychometric testing and benchmarking to assess candidates to ensure they have the right people on key projects.

    People leaders are under pressure too – they are often hands-on and having to do the hard graft and lead at the same time. People managers are often working the hardest. Senior leaders are trying to lift levels of capacity and people managers are often getting caught in the middle.

    These results also suggest that employers need to critically assess project-based work within the business – will the projects deliver material returns and outcomes like increased profits or competitive advantage? If not, park them and focus on those that do.

 


27 Department of Labour, Working Hours in New Zealand, viewed 28 September 2012.

Employee Burnout

Key Findings

  • Three in 10 employers are seeing increasing levels of burnout among their teams.
  • A lack of clarity around role and delivery expectations (33.1%), building better support networks for employees within the organisation (27.9%), hiring an interim to support employees facing burnout (25.4%) and ensuring better alignment of employees’ skills sets and requirements (23.2%) are seen as key ways to address this problem.

 

Insights

  • The demise of regular face-to-face connection and frequency of contact between manager and employee is creating problems. Conversations occurring online or on-the-fly around how employees are coping, road blocks they are experiencing and how they can be supported don’t get to the nub of issues so they can be proactively addressed before they become a problem.

    Identifying employees before they are on the brink of burnout comes back to the relationship between employees and their managers. Managers will know when an employee is missing deadlines, forgetting things and acting out of character. It’s not necessarily about a weekly or monthly catch up, but showing an interest in them every day and managing them effectively.

    In many cases team sizes have decreased, fewer people are doing a broader range of tasks and work is less specialised. Today’s employees need to be agile, adaptable, resilient and open to change. Employers need to ensure that they are testing for these factors during the recruitment process rather than focusing on a candidate’s technical skills as these are not an effective indicator of high performance. Putting a person in a role when they don’t have the necessary skills causes stress for both employer and employee.

    Every hire is an investment – if employers want to maximise their return then they need to invest in an effective, consistent recruitment process that goes beyond reviewing technical skills and reference checking. They need to be clear about what constitutes success in a role and which skills, competencies and behaviours are needed and recruit on that basis if they want their business and teams to be successful.

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Hudson (NASDAQ: HSON) offers highly specialised professional recruitment, recruitment outsourcing, talent management and related staffing services and solutions. Clients partnering with Hudson achieve greater organisational performance by attracting, selecting, engaging and developing the best talent for their business. With a global presence of more than 2,000 employees operating in approximately 20 countries, Hudson delivers great people and great performance.