Why Working Longer Hours Can Actually be Less Productive

In most industries, the norm is to work very long hours per week. This is particularly true in Canada and the US.

False business belief is that “those who work latest work best.” But according to OnlineMBA, while it seems that the 40-hour work week has been largely dispensed with in our over-working culture, new studies show that working more very seldom produces better results.

Employees work many more hours now than they have in the past, but it’s coming at the expense of health, happiness, and even productivity. While it looks good to be the first to arrive and the last to leave work each day, it turns out that putting in 60 hours of work each week may do more harm than good in achieving end results.

Through the data, one thing becomes extremely clear: to boost productivity and foster excellent employees, the best thing businesses can do is to bring back the 40-hour work week. Or, at least work long hours only for special periods of time, such as during big product launches.

It appears that we worked longer hours than in the 1970s but we earn on average less than in the 1970s (adjusted for inflation). However, in the six of 10 top competitive economies, it is forbidden to work more than 48 hours (Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Norway and the Netherlands). And all those countries except Germany represent the top five world’s happiest countries.

Canada is in second place in the OECD Well-being index for Life Satisfaction at 7.9, while Denmark is first at 8.1. USA is in 12th place with a score of 7.6. Canadians devotes 14.25 hours per week to leisure and personal care.


Originally published in 2012.