How many hours per week should you work to maximize your impact?

Edited excerpt from The Neuroscience of Recruiting: 3 Key Discoveries & Implications by Geoffrey James:

Conventional business wisdom is that there’s a positive correlation between long work hours and employee productivity.

Instead, the opposite is true. It’s now known that long work hours reduce creativity by decreasing the amount of waking hours when the mind is at rest.

Furthermore, numerous studies show long work hours create workplace stress, which in turn causes health problems that negatively affects employee performance. Rather than getting more done, employees get sick more frequently and make more mistakes, which then requires extra work to fix.

Ironically, the false economy of long work hours was scientifically proven 100 years ago, when the Ford Motor Company discovered through extensive testing that the ideal work schedule was 40 hours a week. Those studies showed that working additional hours produces a temporary productivity increase that after four weeks turns into a net productivity decrease.

Today, recruiters tend to view a candidate’s history of working long hours as a positive indicator of commitment. In the future, however, recruiters may need to interpret a history of working long hours as a negative indicator suggesting a lack of balance and a consequent inability to think creatively.

(1) Cf. How to clear time for deep thinking.
(2) Cf. Can you be a great business leader if you’re lazy?

3 thoughts on “How many hours per week should you work to maximize your impact?

  1. From an NYT Corner Office interview with Daniel Hendrix:

    “The company brought in a president above me who was really charismatic and dynamic. One day he was in the office on a Sunday and he said: “Every time I’m in here on Sunday, you’re in here working. I’m not impressed by somebody who can’t get their job done in five days. I’m really not. It’s about balance.” And I had two young kids. He said, “Go out and hire some people and have a life.”
    So I started hiring people, developing people, building a team, and I learned that you have to delegate, have to have accountability and have to make sure that people have the tools to do the job. Then you check in — you ask what’s going on… His message really resonated: you’re going to burn out if you keep doing this.”


  2. Pingback: Don’t send non-urgent emails outside work hours | A Founder's Notebook

  3. Pingback: Skift’s approach to work-life balance | A Founder's Notebook

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