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Does Working Long Hours Increase Business Productivity?

in: Company News

Everywhere you turn, the media seems to tout working longer hours to increase business productivity. But does working longer really help your company improve productivity, or is that just a myth?

Research seems to point to what we all know intuitively as true—the longer you work, the more productivity declines. Here’s what the research shows about working longer hours. There’s a secret to improving productivity, and it’s based on how many hours you sit at your desk.

How Long We Really Work

The International Labor Organization completed a study of 13 countries, studying the average number of hours per week worked by employees in these nations. The good news: American isn’t at the top of the workaholic nations. Canada topped the list, with employees working an average of 62.1 hours, followed by Sweden and Denmark with 60.8 hours and Norway, with 60.3 The Scandinavians sure work hard! The United States came in next, with the average employee working 59.4 hours.

The study has tracked employee working hours since the 1950s, thus providing an accurate and reliable picture of the typical workweek.

Pandemic Effects on Work Hours

The global pandemic has also led to a shift in working hours. First, with travel restricted and outside entertainment also off-limits for long stretches at a time, people remained at home. Leisure activities decreased while work-from-home hours increased. Many companies that shifted their working from home policies and accommodated employees’ needs to telecommute found it benefited everyone and kept their telecommuting policies in place.

The result: more people working longer hours. Instead of using the hour of commuting time saved each day for personal time or leisure activities, employees began clocking even longer workdays.

But Longer Working Hours Doesn’t Equal Improved Business Productivity

However, even with the longer working day, the surprising fact is that working more doesn’t equal increased business productivity.

Another study like the one cited previously has tracked the impact of working hours on business productivity for generations. This study began in the 1930s and 1940s when labor unions advocated for a 40-hour work week. They found the same thing: employees do not demonstrate improved business productivity when they work more than 40 hours per week.

Take note, corporate America: an increase of 20 hours over the 40-hour workweek—very close to the 19.4 hours extra the average American works clocks each week with 59.4 hours—adds only about 25%, max, to our productivity.

Is it really worth it?

And What About Smartphones?

Labor Unions fought for almost 200 years to make the 40-hour workweek the norm, but it took our collective obsession with smartphones less than 5 years to erode that landmark. Some experts, in fact, believe that Americans now work the equivalent of five additional weeks per year compared to what they worked in 1979.

Work-Life Balance Leads to Better Business Productivity

The Corporate Executive Board stated that in a study of 50,000 global workers, employees who believe they have better work-life balance tend to work 21% more effectively. Companies who take work-life balance seriously may do better in the business productivity department than those that ignore it.

How can you improve work-life balance? A few simple steps can do wonders for your employees’ mental health and your company’s overall business productivity.

  • Establish communication norms that accommodate individual, personal schedules. For example, set the standard that instant messages (Slack, Skype, Teams, etc.) must be returned with 24 hours during the work week and by Monday over the weekend. This enables employees to set aside or turn off their smartphones and benefit from a mental break from being constantly vigilant for messages.
  • Respect your employees’ personal time. Try not to reach out to them at all on weekends and evenings.
  • Enforce vacation time policies and encourage employees to take vacation.
  • Do not reword workaholism. Praise results, not hours worked.

A few simple steps to improve work-life balance may not be enough, but it can get you started on the right path to increasing business productivity. As with all things, it’s the quality of the work—not the quantity of hours worked—that adds to your business’ success!

Mindover Software

Mindover Software is a software reseller with a broad range of accounting, ERP, finance, customer relationship management, and other software products, including Acumatica software. For more information about Acumatica or other software needs, please contact us or call 512-990-3994.