In the 1980s, a curious and tragic phenomenon occurred in booming Japan. Seemingly healthy young office workers started dropping dead in large numbers from karoshi (death from overwork). Japanese employees worked such long hours that it literally killed them. A culture of “face time” became firmly entrenched in corporate Japan, where status was derived from being the “hardest working” person who could tolerate the most amount of hours in the office.

Employees were ashamed to go home before each other, so the whole team would end up staying in the office until late at night as nobody wanted to appear lazy to the boss. The whole concept of time management at work was thrown out of the window. Bailing out of work in the afternoon or early evening meant the employee was weak and couldn’t hack it.

But the concept of more hours being “better” is a contradiction, as the real goal should be to use time in the most efficient way possible so that each person’s objectives and responsibilities can be met in the least amount of time, with the least amount of resources.  “Face time” is the last thing in the world we want to encourage as employers.

Unfortunately this Japanese absurdity didn’t fall out of favour after the 1980’s along with their overpriced stock market. In fact this mentality is still prevalent in societies all over the world today.

Even in America, people are massively inefficient with their time and are looking to score points over each other with their “busyness”. It’s almost as if being “busy” gives employees bragging rights, as it gives the perception that they’re important.

It’s a sad state of affairs when so many people are trading in their free time and true potential for this artificial and unnecessary busyness, all just to show face time because they think it gets them in the manager’s good books.

Employers urgently need to put a stop to this crazy mentality. Do you really want your best staff to be spending their time on the computer at 9pm on a Tuesday night?

Work life balance is important. An employee will grow to resent your company if they’re losing their weekends or feel that too much face time is required after 6pm.

It’s sad to think how many employees have lost marriages and relationships by squandering their work hours due and feeling that they have to put in huge amounts of overtime and inefficiently drop by the office to show their faces on a weekend.

As an efficient and clear headed leader that your employees rely on, it’s up to you to make their lives easier and help them win back their days.

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