Memo To Work Martyrs: Long Hours Make You Less Productive

Nearly half of U.S. workers say they routinely put in more than 50 hours on the job each week, often without overtime pay. However, research shows that employers should probably start politely declining the “free” gift. That’s because there’s a growing body of evidence that even seemingly “free” labor might not be a good deal for employers or their employees. Studies show that employee productivity falls sharply after a 50-hour work week, and the employee falls off a productivity cliff after 55 hours. In fact, someone who puts in 70 hours produces nothing more with those extra 15 hours. Longer hours have also been connected to absenteeism and employee turnover. So prevalent is the problem that the CDC has an entire website devoted to the effects of long working hours. Even if workers aren’t paid for this extra time, it’s not free. There are additional costs of long working hours, such as the expenses of running complementary machinery and of providing light, heat, ventilation, and supervisory labor. Despite the research, don’t expect Americans to be better about getting home for dinner anytime soon. Not only are hours worked per week on the rise, but technology seems to be irresistibly driving the trend, with the Internet, email and cellphones increasing their hours worked.