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Research proves that long hours diminish productivity

Are you working long hours, chasing after productivity? It may be just a mirage if you’re shooting yourself in the foot with your work schedule.

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work stress

The data is in: you may be killing your own productivity

Are you working overtime to get more done? Are you skipping lunches, foregoing coffee breaks and vacation time, and coming to the office on your days off to play catch up?

It’s likely that you are not only failing to generate any more work for your extra hours, but you are also damaging your productivity in the long run. The results are in, as the research nearly universally supports the conclusion that overworking not only doesn’t result in higher output, but in fact, actually diminishes productivity.

In a study by professor Erin Reid of Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, managers compared the productivity of employees who were working 80 hours per week with that of employees who were only pretending to work the same number of hours.

Although managers punished employees who were dishonest about their true workloads, the study found that managers actually could not tell the difference between the work produced by those who were working long hours and those who weren’t. In other words, employees produced the same amount of work whether or not they were actually spending 80 hours at the office.

Long hours result in hidden costs for employers

It gets worse. It’s not just that employees produce the same amount whether or not they are working long hours; in fact, their productivity may actually decrease if they are overworked, and the quality of the work declines as well. Employees forced or pressured to work long days had decreased capacity for “interpersonal communication, making judgement calls, reading other people’s faces, or managing their own emotions.” Overworked employees lose concentration, get distracted easily, and make silly mistakes that take time and money to correct.

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Marianna Virtanen of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health also found that overwork led to a number of stress-related health problems, including insomnia, depression, problems with memory, and alcoholism. These health problems, in turn, resulted in higher absenteeism and turnover in the workplace, and also corresponded to an increased cost for health insurance.

Productivity is king and work hours are the queen

These studies paint a clear picture: if you demand too much time from your employees, they will produce less work, lower quality work, and will be more likely to call in sick or to quit. You’ll not only be paying overtime for the same amount or less work than you’d get from a more reasonable schedule, but you’ll also throw away big bucks on correcting mistakes and covering the health problems resulting from overwork and stress.

By contrast, a study by Harvard found that, when an office decreased the number of hours in its work day, the company actually became more productive.

In short: a concise work day is a productive work day.


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Ellen Vessels, a Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for their wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.



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