Working More Than 40 Hours Per Week? Not Your Fault…

There’s been a lot of discussion lately around whether the 40hr per work week is still the optimal working schedule to keep, spurred on by Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg who mentioned recently that she leaves the office at *gasp* 5:30pm so she can spend more time with her kids:

I was showing everyone I worked for that, I worked just as hard. I was getting up earlier to make sure they saw my emails at 5:30, staying up later to make sure they saw my emails late. But now I’m much more confident in where I am and so I’m able to say, “Hey! I am leaving work at 5:30.” And I say it very publicly, both internally and externally.

Oh, the horror! Right?

Well, we all know intimately that most of us work way more than 40 hours in any given week. As Sandberg notes, it’s quite unfortunate that some industries and businesses still make it a big deal and make it a badge of honor to work an incredible amount of hours while industry reports and studies have shown time and time again that working more than that decreases productivity!

Why, then, do most of us still work for businesses that demand that we do this? And why do we still say “Yes” when we know that our exhaustion-fed work isn’t our best?There’s enough out there that can provide ample justification for why we continue to put in those long hours but one of the most often and overlooked reasons is because the teams and organizations that we work for aren’t working at their best and most optimal.

In fact, I’d go as far to say that the individual staff person is less at fault than the team, organization, and cultural environment at large. Let’s entertain an alternate reality for a moment, shall we?

A Different Reality

What would it look like if your team always had the right people at the table, that the communication levels were so precise and  open that things like ambiguity and confusion were rarely in play. Imagine if your team was comprised of highly productive and passionate players who loved coming to work and who really enjoyed their teammates presence and company during the day. Imagine if, when asked, all of your team could respond with integrity that little time was ever wasted and that they felt empowered and capable of fulfilling their individual roles and tasks.

If the above was possible then a few things would occur:

  1. Productivity during the day would be at it’s most highest.
  2. The team would always operate out of their strengths, thus maximizing impact during a normal working day.
  3. The individuals on the team would be always working at their most optimal energy levels, instead of exhaustion.
  4. There wouldn’t be a dramatic need for working late or long.
  5. Everyone would be much, much happier. The culture and environment would thrive.

These are just some of the many benefits of having a more optimized culture and optimized teams. The problem is that most of us work in environments and for businesses that are not optimized, where communication is difficult, and action and influence is hard to calculate and manage.

The result? The business, by default, compensate for the loss of productivity and the easiest solution is by adding more hours to the day to do the work that wasn’t getting done. A sad result and an unfortunate consequence that can be easily remedied.

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3 Responses to “Working More Than 40 Hours Per Week? Not Your Fault…”

  1. Tony Khuon
    February 12, 2014 at 12:50 am #

    Peter, agree with you wholeheartedly but how much of this is a failure of valuing only things that are easily measured e.g. man-hours per project? I’ve worked for organizations that equate hours-worked with productivity almost out of sheer laziness. It’s harder to quantify energy/happiness/sustainability.

    • peter
      February 14, 2014 at 11:08 am #

      Oh yes. Of course. We must measure all things right??

      Not necessarily. But interestingly enough, you can measure those last ideas.
      Look at: attrition rate, morale, etc.

      We did that at a client a couple years back. The morale was at like 30%. Nobody liked working there. No wonder they were losing so much good talent.

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