Saturday, March 17, 2012

The 40-hour work week

In this day and age where businesses are under pressure to operate at maximum efficiency, managers often think they've done their job if they're successful at keeping their employees working longer and longer hours (for the same pay, of course). I came across an interesting article titled "Bring back the 40-hour work week" that challenges this common wisdom. Here are a couple of excerpts that are relevant to my line of work.
"Robinson writes that he’s seen overworked software teams descend into a negative-progress mode, where they are actually losing ground week over week because they’re so mentally exhausted that they’re making more errors than they can fix." 
"In fact, research shows that knowledge workers actually have fewer good hours in a day than manual laborers do — on average, about six hours, as opposed to eight."
My primary critique of the article would be that it does not acknowledge that people have varied capacities for work. Some people can indeed work very long hours and still be productive, but it is far from the norm, and they are probably not as effective when those extra hours are forced by authority, rather than being self-motivated.

(The same article is available at AlterNet.)

A few months after writing this article, I received an email letting me know about an infographic, unrelated to this article with the same title as the article. It had some interesting statistics, so I thought it would be worthwhile to include it.

Update 9/9/15

I received a link to an article from an IEEE JobSite eNewsletter about how working longer hours increases the risk of stroke.

Update 11/25/15

I came across this article in Business Insider.  I can attest to this having seen several cases first hand in Silicon Valley.

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