Short Takes on Hours vs Productivity and Company Culture

At the risk of turning this blog into an odd sort of tumblr… I have two more articles I want to share with you. I promise to get back to writing more original posts soon.

First, a reader sent me a link to a short Economist article summarizing some new research into the impact of long hours on productivity. Unfortunately, this research, like other, much earlier research, focuses on physical labor. As far as I know, no one has done systematic research into the impact of long hours on knowledge workers. There was a great post about why “crunch mode” (the practice in software development of putting in extra hours at the end of a project) doesn’t work… but it has been taken down. A lot of its ideas are summarized in an Alternet article.

However, we know that the brain is an energy hog, and we can all intuitively attest to the difficulty of maintaining focus when tired, so I will be very surprised if research comes in that indicates knowledge workers are immune from the trend the research in the Economist article found: namely that after a certain point, longer hours decrease productivity.

I noticed that trend in myself in graduate school, and adjusted my hours accordingly. I have always been someone who works roughly 40 hours per week. I get a lot done in my 40 hours, though, which tends to surprise people, particularly people who are working super long hours. Part of the reason for my productivity is that I am in my “productive peak”- I think I’m most productive when I work 35-45 hours per week. I’m also rather ruthless with time management. I wrote about all of this in my first short ebook, Taming the Work Week. I won’t rehash all of that here, but I’m happy to answer specific questions if anyone has them. Just leave them in the comments or email them to me.

My second link to share is a wonderful post from Scott Berkun about company culture. He is critiquing another post that was making the rounds at the time his post was written, but the beauty of Berkun’s post stands alone. You don’t have to read the other post if you don’t want to. Berkun makes some very, very good points about what company culture is and who sets it. I won’t fan girl gush about it more- just go read it.

The only thing I’ll add  is: if you are the person who is primarily responsible for the culture in your group (of whatever size), you should pay attention to it. As Berkun says, pay attention not just to what the people who are staying think about the culture, but also to what the people who are leaving think. The people leaving will probably be reticent to tell you directly, so you’ll have to read between the lines. And if the people who stay are all in a similar group (e.g., men, white people, young, or engineers) while the people who leave tend to not be in that group, think really hard about that. The people leaving are almost certainly telling you something in this case, and it is almost certainly not good.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *