Are We Working Too Hard?

The highest-earning Americans work more hours than anyone else in the world, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they're more productive in the truest sense of the word.

night office 

(Photo Credit: Ben Husmann/Flickr)

The length of our work day is determined by corporate culture, argues Richard Koch at Quartz, not economic necessity. In other words, companies like to think of themselves as places where everyone works hard, whether or not workers actually need to put in 14-hour days in order to succeed.

In fact, longer hours might actually lead to lowered productivity. Koch points out that factory workers in pre-labor reform Great Britain worked up to 15 hours a day, and yet average real incomes for all British citizens are 20 times higher today than in the mid-1800s.

"If you still need convincing that long hours destroy wealth, look at 2012 OECD figures," he writes. "The country with the longest hours was Greece, followed by Hungary and Poland -- and they ranked 26th, 33rd, and 34th out of 34 countries in terms of productivity. By contrast, the countries working the fewest hours were the Netherlands, Germany and Norway, which rank fifth, seventh and second, respectively, for productivity. Overall, the more hours worked, the poorer the productivity and wealth creation."

Koch is far from the only one making this argument. A paper from the International Labour Organization examines the relationship between work hours and productivity. Alan Henry at Lifehacker summarizes:

"Longer hours do not make you more productive, and can in fact have the opposite effect: You'll get less done, and what you do get done is never your best work (or has to be revisited or corrected later)."

In other words, your long days might be impressing the boss -- but they probably aren't doing you or the company much good.

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