After six hours work employees' brains clock out for day
IN our office at the moment we are exploring themes related to our next working breakfast with fatigue expert Thea O'Connor.
Ms O'Connor questions the high cost of working too much and cites 150 years of research that shows shorter work hours actually raise productivity and profit.
Given the hours I have spent on a plane in the past few weeks madly crossing from one side to the other and up and down this wonderful country of ours, I figured this was some material I needed to stop and read.
In the 19th century, unions called for shorter working hours and, when their demands were heeded, productivity rose.
In 1914, when Henry Ford took the radical step of doubling workers' pay and cutting shifts from nine to eight hours, business boomed.
In 1939, with the wind down of the industrial age we saw a new deal enshrine the 40-hour work week.
Throughout the '30s, '40s, and '50s, studies conducted by businesses, universities, industry associations and even the military questioned the wisdom of this policy.
But by the 1960s, the benefits of the 40-hour week were accepted beyond question in corporate America and subsequently many other large westernised countries.
Most of these studies showed that workers have six good (yes six, not eight), reliable hours a day in them.
Paying for 10 or 12 hours produces no additional output, only distracted, less-engaged employees.
However, as developed countries moved from industry-based to knowledge-based economies, this thinking changed.
Since knowledge workers sit at desks, safety issues have declined.
However, employers assume that since the work is less physically taxing, people can handle more hours at work.
If you're a knowledge worker, the truth of this may become clear if you think about your own typical work day.
There's a good chance that you probably turn out five or six good, productive hours of hard mental work, and then spend the other two or three hours on the job in meetings, answering email, making phone calls, and so on.
You can stay longer if your boss asks; but after six hours, all he's really got left is a body in a chair.
Your brain has already clocked out and gone home.
Continuing to demand longer and longer working hours does nothing but depletes resources from the human capital pool without replenishing them.
In order to create a more sustainable, profitable and productive economy, we need to talk about how to live low-stress, balanced work lives that leave us refreshed, strong, and able to carry on as economic contributors for a full four or five decades.
We've done it before with positive results, we can do it again.
If you are interested about this topic, email to find out about a working breakfast in Brisbane in March. Tara Neven is director of neuresource group, situated in Tank St. Phone 4972 5007 or 1800 704 320 or email@example.com. Tara specialises in organisational learning and development.