It turns out that productivity may actually decline as workers put in longer and longer hours. So say many recent articles and studies addressing the relationship between the hours worked by an employee and the output she can be expected to produce.
A former recruiting candidate of mine shared just such an article from the Wall Street Journal this week titled, “Radical Idea at the Office: A 40-Hour Workweek.” This particular piece focuses on the benefits of a fixed and capped work week to both the company (its ability to attract high-caliber applicants, pay lower compensation) and employees (clear expectations and work-life balance) and, like most recent articles on the topic, quotes John Pencavel, a labor economics professor at Stanford University, whose research indicates that increases in productivity from additional working hours decline above a certain threshold (read his study here).
These are not new ideas. That they seem new is further evidence of our growing obsession with being “busy.” And our resulting inability (or disinclination) to truly disconnect from work is causing us to confuse working a lot with working hard.
Working hard is not (necessarily) working fast. It is not running a manic, unceasing race to stay ahead of an ever-expanding inbox. It is not responding to every ring or buzz of a phone at any time of day. It is not even within the capabilities of one who feels beholden to and at the effect of everyone’s agenda but her own. Continue reading