How Shortening Your Work Week Can Make You More Productive


A study by showed that a large number of employees, up to 60%, waste a significant amount of time at work. The main reason for time wasting? Most employees worked very long hours and felt bored.

While many workers wasted most of their time on non-work related activities, some work-related activities such as attending long meetings, doing someone else’s work, and dealing with office politics ate into their time and made them less productive.

There are increasing calls for shorter work weeks and perhaps Tim Ferris’ ‘Four Hour Work Week’ pushed the concept a bit. Nonetheless, there is a growing unanimity that working 50 hours a week, night and weekends, is not a sign of industriousness and commitment to your work; rather it is an impending abyss of burnout and possible depression. No thanks!

In a cut-throat economy where working long hours or ‘working late’ is seen as desirable (and some guru’s tell business owners to work until you drop), it can be difficult to want to cut down your hours. But here are some scientifically proven reasons why working fewer hours in a week can actually make you more productive:

Better decision making

productivity hacksIn her book Bankable Leadership, Tasha Eurich, Ph.D explains that people lose their ability to reason and think properly when they work too much. Her observation is backed up by research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology that showed that over a course of five years, study participants who worked more than 55 hours a week  not only had poor vocabulary but their capacity to reason and make decisions was diminished.

Think about it: are you usually in a position to make the best decisions when you are physically and mentally exhausted?

Avoid distraction seeking behavior

Remember the study mentioned above? A large majority of employees in that study admitted to wasting time on non-work related activities during office hours. They also wasted time because they were bored and many were exhausted.

This is a perfect example of distraction seeking behavior—you start to spend your time on things other than your work.  When you work very long hours, the idea of work can start to be intolerable. You thus spend one, two or three hours on distraction seeking behavior such as  excessively checking your phone or email, surfing the net for nothing in particular, checking social media, or chatting your time away with anyone in the immediate vicinity.

Needless to say, when exhaustion creeps in and you start spending most of your time on distractions, you simply do not get much done.

Working fewer hours allows you to intensely maximize on the few hours you have. In this case, work is not exhausting or intolerable thus you need fewer distractions to keep you going.

Happiness can boost productivity

People who have a sense of life satisfaction are less depressed, more optimistic and tend to make the most of their time. The contrary is true—low life satisfaction or unhappiness can cause stress, procrastination and lack of will power.

Research published in the NBER shows that when policymakers in Japan and Korea imposed a law that reduced work hours by up to 8 hours a week, employees reported increased work satisfaction.

Working very long hours can leave you with no time for intimate relationships, hobbies or entertainment. Interpersonal conflicts with a spouse, family or peers due to your long working hours will obviously not leave you a happy person.

How short is short?

productivity tipsThere are diverse views about how a shorter workweek should look like. If you are employed, you could propose to your boss that he bases your work not on the time spent at the office but on the quality of work you deliver and your ability to deliver in good time.

Firms such as Semco, Crankset Group and Telmex and many smaller companies have already implemented flexible time that allows employees to work fewer hours while still promoting an environment of productivity.

It might be both difficult and easy to cut down your work time if you are self-employed. A good place to start is, for example, not working over the weekend, or committing to not answering business emails or calls after the close of business.

The fact is, your business will not crumble if you don’t chain yourself to your work so try to deal with things during the standard working hours you have set for yourself.

Be More Productive

It doesn’t matter how long you work but the type of result your deliver in your work. There is no evidence that working long hours increases productivity.

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