Long working hours does not necessarily lead to higher productivity

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To start it off with some humour, many of us have seen the famous sitcom ‘The Office’ in which we saw Michael, the Regional manager, is clumsy and spends majority of his time in distracting his employees of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. However, keeping aside all the tricks and activities that would decrease the productivity, his branch is always the most revenue generating and successful branch of the company. The reason why we are starting with his anecdote is that though it may be just a show, it has got some reality associated.

Recently, Microsoft tested its Work Reform Project in its Japan division wherein people were given 3 holidays (Friday-Saturday-Sunday) without decreasing their salary or cutting their leaves, and the results were surprising, not only the company saw an increase in productivity by 40% but also saved on operating expenses.

Read the article here: Microsoft Japan increases productivity by giving free holiday to employees

However, to confirm these results company will have to dive in a bit further, to determine that the productivity increased because of decrease in working hours the company should use A/B tests, wherein it implement the project in some branches while let some others run the way they are running and then compare the results.

Nonetheless, there are reasons as to why it can be said that it was not merely a fluke. In 2018, a company in New Zealand undertook a similar project and the end results were similar too. Furthermore, according to the research conducted by John Pencavel, economist at the Stanford University, on the British weapon plant employees during World War 1, it was found that after working for a certain number of hours, the productivity per hour went down as hours increased.

We can totally imagine why working for less hours can increase productivity, long working hours cause both mental and physical fatigue. The fatigue not only affects the employee during the last hours of the day, but gets carry forward to the next day as well if the employee is not properly rested. There could be a lot of reasons as to why an employee could not get proper rest, it could be because the employee is working even after going home, long travel time, stress, and many more. The employee will get even more fatigued after the next workday, and so the cycle will start. As a result the employee starts making mistakes, gets lethargic and do not take initiatives or make most of the opportunities given to him.

However, to confirm these results company will have to dive in a bit further, to determine that the productivity increased because of decrease in working hours the company should use A/B tests, wherein it implement the project in some branches while let some others run the way they are running and then compare the results.

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Nonetheless, there are reasons as to why it can be said that it was not merely a fluke. In 2018, a company in New Zealand undertook a similar project and the end results were similar too. Furthermore, according to the research conducted by John Pencavel, economist at the Stanford University, on the British weapon plant employees during World War 1, it was found that after working for a certain number of hours, the productivity per hour went down as hours increased.

We can totally imagine why working for less hours can increase productivity, long working hours cause both mental and physical fatigue. The fatigue not only affects the employee during the last hours of the day, but gets carry forward to the next day as well if the employee is not properly rested. There could be a lot of reasons as to why an employee could not get proper rest, it could be because the employee is working even after going home, long travel time, stress, and many more. The employee will get even more fatigued after the next workday, and so the cycle will start. As a result the employee starts making mistakes, gets lethargic and do not take initiatives or make most of the opportunities given to him.

One other reason of decrease in productivity is that during long working hours employees may run out of work. One needs to understand that not all work can be done at any point of time in a day, some work is dependent on others, like, people waiting for approvals from other, or a food delivery person cannot deliver the food until the food is made and packed by the restaurant, or a salesman cannot make a sale until the customer walks in the showroom or is available to take the call. An employee can put those hours to better use but with increase of every free hour the usefulness decreases.

Another reason as to why employees become unproductive during long working hours could be social signalling. By social signalling we mean that employees who gets the work done early in a day may stay late in the office, or at least until fellow co-workers or the boss does not leave because of the fear of being pointed out as a slacker. We know that managers cannot monitor each and every employee all day long and check if they are doing the work correctly or not, but an employee should be made sure that he does not have to have that fear in him.

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If the employee do really have work, he will happily stay late in the office and complete his work, but staying late because of peer pressure or fear of being pointed out as Mr. or Ms. lazybones will only have a negative affect on the employee. Plus if the employees have comparatively lower working hours, the employees will be more energetic.

A company does not necessarily have to follow what Microsoft did in Japan, by giving 2 weekend holidays instead of 2, a company can decrease the working hours and keep the same number of working days, or a company can also increase the number of leave in the year for the employees.

France has a 35 hours a week rule in addition to this an employee gets 36 days of paid leaves in a year. Plus in 2017 France also made a law which barred employees from sending emails post working hours. Amongst the developed countries, France has if not the highest, one of the highest per hour productivity.

It is believed that not just the developed but also the developing countries can benefit from these schemes. For a human, it is very important to maintain a work-life balance.

The story has been take from another newsfeed with slight changes, the article do not reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Xploringindia.in and its owners.

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