27 September 2023

Working overtime? Longer hours won’t make staff more productive

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Max Freedman* says working overtime rarely correlates to more productivity. He breaks down the most recent data and offers tips for achieving a proper work-life balance.

Working overtime or long hours does not necessarily equate to increased productivity, according to 2021 research from the B2B marketplace Expert Market.

Researchers came to their conclusions after examining the workforces of 42 countries around the world.

Specifically, they determined each country’s productivity level by dividing the annual gross domestic product (GDP) – the value of all the goods and services produced within each country over a year – by the average number of hours full-time and part-time employees worked over a year.

How working overtime affects – and doesn’t affect – productivity

Overall, the U.S. ranked 11th worldwide in productivity.

Based on 1,767 total hours worked in 2020, American employees produced an average of $36.94 per person per hour.

But that’s not even half of what employees in Luxembourg churn out.

Employees in the small European country (which borders France, Germany and Belgium) topped this year’s list, with employees working 1,427 total hours and producing $84.77 per person per hour.

According to the study, all 10 of the countries that ranked ahead of the U.S. have employees who work fewer hours each year than U.S. employees.

For example, Germany has the fewest annual working hours at 1,331.7, yet still produces $41.97 per person per hour.

On the flip side, of the countries included in the study, employees in Mexico and Costa Rica work the most hours each year – 2,124 hours and 1,913.2 hours, respectively, yet they rank the worst in productivity.

Mexican employees produce just $9.63 per person per hour, while Costa Rican employees produce $11.01 per hour.

What the experts say

Expert Market published a similar study in 2016.

At that time, Michael Horrocks, publishing manager at Expert Market, said the research proves that hours spent in the office do not equate to business success and that chaining your workers to their desks doesn’t benefit anyone.

“Hopefully, this means that the culture of presenteeism will be a thing of the past, and we will see a more flexible and balanced approach to work in the future,” Horrocks said in a statement.

“Employees are clearly more beneficial to organisations when they are happier, so in this instance, what’s good for the individual is also what’s good for business.”

The most productive countries and their annual working hours

These were the top 10 countries in the 2021 study in terms of productivity:

Hours worked per year: 1,427; hourly productivity per person per hour: $84.77

Hours worked: 1,746; hourly productivity: $49.95

Hours worked: 1,368.7; hourly productivity: $49.67

Hours worked: 1,495; hourly productivity: $47.01

Hours worked: 1,346; hourly productivity: $44.83

The Netherlands.
Hours worked: 1,399; hourly productivity: $42.51

Hours worked: 1,331.7; hourly productivity: $41.97

Hours worked: 1,400; hourly productivity: $41.89

Hours worked: 1,435; hourly productivity: $40.78

Hours worked: 1,424; hourly productivity: $38.64

The bottom 10 countries for productivity were Mexico, Costa Rica, Chile, Bulgaria, the Russian Federation, Croatia, Greece, Romania, Poland and Latvia.

How to achieve a reasonable work-life balance

You and your employees can achieve a reasonable work-life balance if you all commit to the following steps.

  • Set your hours.

Don’t work outside your set working hours unless absolutely necessary.

  • Prioritise.

Prioritise your tasks according to importance and deadlines.

  • Block off time.

Time-block your schedules so you don’t commit to more work than you can actually take on.

  • Use software.

Use time and attendance tools with timeclocks, such as uAttend, to figure out how long certain recurring tasks take.

(Read our uAttend review for more information.) Then, use this information to improve your time-blocking.

  • Take breaks.

Better yet, take vacations.

Breaks of any sort are better for long-term productivity than working overtime.

More resources on how to avoid working overtime

Many studies suggest that your job can impact your health, with longer hours in the office leading to lower productivity due to employee stress and burnout.

Experts advise taking breaks and prioritising time away from work.

Learn to decrease workplace stress by identifying what’s stressing you out, communicating with colleagues and your team, unplugging, and doing more for yourself.

*Max Freedman is a contributor at Business News Daily.

This article first appeared at businessnewsdaily.com.

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