In Defense of the 40-Hour Workweek

How many hours did you work last week? How many hours did your employee’s work? Chances are, if the total is closer to 60 than it is 40, productivity was actually lost rather than gained.

1206222FortyHourWorkWeekFinalThis information falls into the  “Things-we-know-but-do-nothing-about” category regarding human behavior and performance. Studies reaching all the way back to the early twentieth century have shown time and again that people working less hours often produce, not only more per hour, but more in total than those working longer hours.

As I started to research this post, I had imagined that here I would say, “With the exception of short periods of activity…” which is typically what is said about long work hours. But try as I might, I can find no data that supports even that idea. The fact is that, if just for today, you work 14 hours rather than 8, your productivity will decline in the latter half of the day to the point that it may even be negative by the time you’re finished. In other words, you may start to eliminate gains you made earlier in the day by trying to stay at work longer.

As I’ve stated before, there’s no such thing as work/life balance. There’s only life.  A reader by the name of Allison Morris helped create the infographic you see here which was originally posted over at the OnlineMBA blog. Check it out and see what you think.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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5 thoughts on “In Defense of the 40-Hour Workweek

  1. This reminds me of the productivity in a 6 pm- 10 pm MBA class in that last 30 minutes. This would be a great example proving your diminishing returns.

  2. I ran across this from your Facebook page. I can totally relate with the work environment being the most stressed part of my life. It definitely is. Our compensation of course keeps changing for the benefit of our service provider (left out name on purpose). Numbers, Numbers, Numbers, who cares about that you stopped by the customers home 30 minutes out of your way to help them, you need to hit your numbers.
    It seems customer service is being replaced by numbers which of course is dollars. I was once told to worry about customer service and the profits will come….Hmm seems this is not true by the service provided I sell for.

    Do you see this as a trend or just from a monopoly type company? Look forward to your opinion

  3. Hi Glenn. Unfortunately, I think it’s a trend and I think it’s an outgrowth of the measure-everything mentality. I do think that customer service breeds profit, but at what cost. If we start to define customer service in really hard metrics, we lose the fact that there are as many ways to satisfy a customer as there are customers and sometimes this goes beyond the measures.