Working Over 40 Hours a Week Makes You Less Productive, Not More


Melanie Pinola

August 25, 2015

Sometimes you have to crunch and work overtime. While that can give you a productivity boost and help you get needed things done, in the long term—past four weeks—long work weeks actually make us accomplish less.

The graph above is from Daniel Cook’s Rules of Productivity presentation posted on his Lostgarden blog. It shows how working 60 hours a week leads to a productivity deficit or slump—one which you’ll have to recover from. He writes:

In a 60 hour crunch people have a vague sense that they are doing worse, but never think that they should stop crunching. They imagine that working 40 hours a week will decrease their productivity. In fact, it will let them rest and increase their productivity.

This behavior is fascinating to observe. Zombies stumble over to their desk every morning. Temper flare. Bugs pour in. Yet to turn back would be a betrayal.

Other research backs this up, so if you can help it, stop working those long hours. If you’re a salaried employee who doesn’t get overtime pay, it’s basically like working for free.

Rules of Productivity Presentation | Lostgarden via Boing Boing and Medium

This article was written by Melanie Pinola from Lifehacker and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

There are 20 comments

  • Andrew E. Catalano, BS, MM - 12/05/2015 20:54
    Being on the job for 40+ hours and being productive needs to be considered. Sometimes is the matter of creating busy work or the guilt of leaving earlier than others. There is no substitute for efficient quality work. Balancing of life, and its stresses, and the ability not to spirel out of control take focus, and the understanding of what's in one's control which plays into the equation of productivity. If you're one of those people that consistently work over 40 hours maybe there needs to be an audit of your time and reset priorities. If the job is effecting you to the point of exhaustion it may be time to start looking for another job. In the end, if you enjoy what you do working 40+ may not matter at all!

  • Jay Butler - 11/07/2015 17:31
    People shouldn't over-analyze this study. It is absolutely true, but there are a number of factors that play into everyone's ability to work at a high level. The bottom line is that to have sustained high-performance, everyone needs time to recharge. You can maintain a high number of engaged hours for a set amount of time, but not indefinitely, that much is very clear. The point of the information is that people who think they can go wide-open working 60+ hours per week with not enough downtime for sleep, introspection, and relaxation, are kidding themselves. This is where the old adage of the tortoise and the hare meets life.

  • Dave Ducat - 11/06/2015 18:10
    This is also relative to the role and responsibility and organizational type. Professional services firms, as an example, simply can't make this work because there is work to be done around and outside of the actual work done for clients during their business hours. Moreover, this also expects a scale of resources and org structure that supports highly specialized task assignment which, is simply not possible in organizations like professional services firms that provide their 'value' by having resources overseeing large swaths of the business and placing the risk of that business onto such roles.

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