Why the 50-hour work week doesn’t work


Why the 50‑hour work week doesn’t work

Reading time:  2 Minutes

How does working less produce more? Avoiding fatigue and increasing wellbeing is the key, according to a government report


Thanks to cloud-computing and increasingly sophisticated file-sharing software, the opportunity to work from almost anywhere and have a better work and life balance has grown exponentially. Faced with the prospect of a jammed subway ride on a freezing day, who hasn’t thought of decamping to sun-drenched Florida, iPhone in one hand and cocktail in the other, ready for a quick trip over to the Caribbean for the weekend?

Unfortunately, while this is technically possible, the reality of the situation is the rise of “always-on” culture. Having a smartphone means we carry our office around with us wherever we go, and those pings, pop-ups and push notifications alerting us to a new email do little to help us switch off – a poll by the research firm Gallup found that the average American works 47 hours a week, with four in 10 working more than 50.

Even though this may feel like we’re getting things done, we might not be doing them to our full potential. According to the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), long working hours induce fatigue, which decreases productivity and even increases the risk of injury. The figures speak for themselves: working over 12 hours a day increases the risk of injury by 37%; medical residents were 16.2% more likely to be involved in a car accident on the ride home; lost productivity from fatigue is estimated to cost the economy $136.4bn a year. The report also mentions that the majority of workplace disasters have happened at night: think Texas City BP oil refinery explosion and Chernobyl nuclear meltdown were both nocturnal happenings.

Despite all this, change is afoot. Even though a strong work ethic is embedded in American culture, the millennial generation –  the largest group in the workforce –has recognized the value of a healthier work and life balance to combat work-related stress. One solution is flexible working, which gives an employee the power to decide when and where they perform their job, and the option to manage their time to suit their lifestyle more effectively.

Flexible working goes hand in hand with flexspace, which is growing in popularity across the US. When the option of working closer to home, in an attractive environment that has everything that’s needed to get things done (think hot desks, meeting rooms and super-fast Wi-Fi), it’s not difficult to see why. And when that means fewer hours, better wellbeing and more productivity, it’s not difficult to see why an ever-growing number of businesses are agreeing with their employees.  


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