Posted: 10:16 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013
By Laura Montini
Not so fast. At least one expert argues the opposite.
Experts have often wondered about and researched the effects that long hours have on productivity. Less discussed is whether or not more hours worked leads to greater wealth.
Writing for Quartz, author Richard Koch argued that history has shown that greater amounts of time spent at work do not correlate with greater prosperity. In his recent post, he cited data which show that the average amount of hours worked annually has declined in developed nations such as the United States, France, Germany and Singapore.
In 1950, Americans worked about 1,900 hours each year, while the French worked 2,150 hours in the same year. Today, Americans have cut back to 1,700 hours, but the French now put in substantially fewer hours per year, logging just 1,500.
Additionally, a 2012 report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development identified the hardest-working country in Europe--debt-ridden Greece--whose citizens clock in a laudable 2,017 hours per year.
"When we reflect, we realize that small amounts of time can lead to prodigious results; and that huge amounts of travail go largely unrewarded. When we examine our routines, we see that the value per hour of different kinds of work varies enormously. Working hours are dictated by culture, not economics.
Of course long hours undermine productivity--as C. Northcote Parkinson said, 'work expands to fill the time available.' Whatever our religion or ideology, we are still trapped by the centuries-old Protestant ethic, which viewed long hours as a badge of moral seriousness. Most firms still value such 'intensity.'"
If you need a more firm example, Koch also pointed to the work ethic of Michael Eisner who led Paramount movies and then the Walt Disney Company. Eisner worked around the clock seven days a week, and in his first three years, Disney’s profits increased from less than $300 million to nearly $800 million.
“Yet, an internal analysis showed that nearly all the surge came from just three decisions. Eisner raised theme-park prices; increased the number of Disney hotels; and started to sell videos of the animated classics,” Koch wrote.
Koch observed that small amounts of time can often lead to remarkable gains, and in other cases, large amounts of toil goes unrewarded.