Heffernan argues that instead of working 60-hour weeks, you’ll be more productive (and make fewer errors) by working 40 hours. Stop multitasking. Stop checking your BlackBerry during meetings. Keep focused.Here’s a passage from “How to be productive: stop working”, which was published on American business news website Bnet. “Industrial companies put a lot of effort into “asset integrity” — which really just means protecting critical plants and machinery from damage and wear and tear. At companies like BP, it’s clearly more of an aspiration than a reality, but anyone trained in a manufacturing environment learns that asset integrity is a top priority. But what about service industries — companies where the only assets are the brains of the people who work there? Shouldn’t they worry about asset integrity, too? Astonishingly, most of them don’t. Instead, financial services, consulting, the law and even the medical profession perpetuate working hours where all-nighters are heroic, driving with jet lag is the norm and anyone who actually has lunch risks becoming lunch. But, they argue, we’re in the midst of an economic downturn, the worst recession in our lifetimes. Shouldn’t we all be working as hard as we can? Who has the luxury of time? What do you mean weekends aren’t for working? Well, for the last 100 years, every productivity study in every industry has come to the same conclusion: after about 40 hours in a week, the quality of your work starts to degrade. You make mistakes. That’s why working 60 hours may not save you time or money: you’ll spend too much of that time fixing the mistakes you shouldn’t have made in the meantime. That’s why software companies that limit work to 35 hours a week need to employ fewer QA engineers: there isn’t as much mess to clean up. In a knowledge economy, where thinking and creativity are the raw materials from which products and profit flow, brains are assets. They need to be cherished, nurtured and protected, not abused. Leaders need to take seriously a century’s evidence.
- Overwork doesn’t make us productive, it makes us stupid;
- Looking away from a problem is often the best way to solve it; and
- Burnout is what happens when people are asked to work in ways that obliterate all other parts of their lives.
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