Work Less, Achieve More?
Terry Braverman and Company

Work Less, Achieve More?

American workers are laboring longer, while those from other countries receive reductions in working hours and show gains in productivity. Is this a fallacy?


The Washington Post recently examined whether working more hours translates into increased productivity and making comparisons between nations. The survey includes some of the world's most advanced nations and some developing nations too. You can view the two-minute video on global workplace productivity here:


If you view the report, I’d be interested to see your feedback and what your conclusions are concerning the “work less, achieve more” concept. I think this study by the Washington Post is ill conceived. It ignores some key factors, e.g., natural resources and technology available in those countries, the labor pool and their level of skill sets, plus the consumer demand for their goods and services, to cite a few. There is no core scientific evidence here to inspire changes to a company's policies regarding daily breaks and/or time off work.


Defining and measuring productivity is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. There are cultural distinctions between the U.S., Europe, Latin America, and Asia, so methods and processes vary in terms of both technology and human capital. Is working hard the same and working long hours? I think not. Are regular breaks the answer? Too simplistic. If I’m “in a zone” when working, and ideas are flowing and my energy is high and focused, I stay with it until the task is complete. Burnout happens to me if I’m stuck and languishing. That’s a good time to break. Then again, that’s me. Can this model be applied to everyone? Of course not.


Whether extra hours worked stokes or saps productivity is also relative to the industry, even the department within a company, the company culture, goods and/or services produced, who they are marketing to, and especially having the right people in the best job positions for them to stay passionate and succeed. How to inspire the best out of each worker takes managerial flexibility, encouragement, and proper learning tools. And then, tailoring clear policies to optimally achieve objectives and maximize productivity.




Coffitivity claims that ambient noise (like the kind from a local coffee shop) can increase creativity with "enough noise to work." Rooms that are too quiet can be distracting, and obviously, rooms that are too loud can impair mental focus and concentration -- and there's some research to back it up.


Pixar's headquarters is designed with all the bathrooms in the atrium -- so that employees from different departments might have more opportunities to mingle. Are people discussing their work projects while taking care of other business?


The Hawthorne Effect was named after a set of studies at the Hawthorne plant in the 1920s -- where increased productivity was observed when the factory lights were brightened OR darkened. Basically, the workers were more productive, not because of the lighting changes, but because they realized their bosses were checking on them. (The dramatic effect of changing the lighting was apparently fictional, but the Hawthorne Effect is still a phenomenon that researchers try to account for when designing psychological studies.)

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