Why working late isn’t working for you


Are you trying to be more productive at work? Spend less time at the office.

A new paper shows that working fewer hours can actually promote productivity. The research notes that a 70-hour work week differs very little in terms of output compared to a 56 hour work week. Essentially, those extra 16 hours at the office are a waste of time.

The paper also comments that working a full week (seven days) without a rest day can damage hourly output. The output is actually slightly higher on a 48-hour working week (with no work on Sunday) than on the seven-day work schedule.

Overworked America

The U.S. is the most overworked nation in the developed world. According to the ILO, “Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers.”  At least 134 countries have laws setting the maximum length of the work week; the U.S. does not. In the U.S., 85.8% of males and 66.5% of females work more than 40 hours per week.

Additionally, Americans take less vacation, fewer sick days, and retire later, too. There may be a few reasons for this, including the fact that there isn’t a federal law requiring paid sick days in the United States and the U.S. remains the only industrialized country in the world that has no legally mandated annual leave. The U.S. averages 13 vacation days per year compared to Canada, and in Japan workers get at least 20 paid vacation days. In France and Finland, employees get 30 days– an entire month off, paid, every year.

The bottom line is Americans are not taking time off, one-quarter of U.S. employees have no paid vacation time, and of those that do, only 57% of them are using all that’s given to them.

What Are The Perils Of Overworking?

People who work too many hours are prone to making mistakes, which can often take more effort to fix than create. They can become no longer in the capacity to effectively make sound business decisions, which can be due to increased distractions, lack of motivation and conflict within the workplace. Essentially, employees become so exhausted and mentally over extended that they cannot produce their best work. Creativity and problem solving skills are compromised. Complete burnouts are also detrimental to employee health. Studies show that being overworked contributes to higher healthcare costs, more sick days used and, oftentimes a shorter working lifespan for your employees.

Take Time Out And Build In Flexibility

Tony Schwartz, author and CEO of The Energy Project, notes that the prevailing work ethic is one in which “downtime is typically viewed as time wasted,” and “rewards still accrue to those who push the hardest and most continuously over time.” But, he adds, “that doesn’t mean they’re the most productive.”

“Strategic renewal,” Schwartz writes, “including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations, boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health.”

Perhaps change for improving work load management and productivity  is on the horizon as the millennial generation make their stamp in workplace culture.  A recent survey released by Bentley University noted that 77% of millennials say that flexible work hours are a key to boosting productivity within their generation. Furthermore, 39% believe that more options to work remotely would result in higher output. Giving credit to millenials, the study also comments that they’re always switched on – the survey found that, of the 80% of millennials who own a smartphone, 89% regularly check work email outside normal work hours. This undoubtedly facilitates a greater work/life balance and sense of fulfillment, as employees are empowered to work to their own schedule, whilst being responsive to their company and client needs.


Working long hours may get you brownie points, or even overtime pay, but it does nothing for your personal life, your personal health, or your productivity. Do your employer a favor and switch off, take a rest, and power up again operating on full charge.

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