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Longer working hours: Does it increase productivity?

2 min read

All companies aim for increase productivity in workplace. Leaders want their employees to be engaged and enthusiastic, to work without recognising that the day has passed by. In recent times, there has been a lot of discussion about how long people should work for.

Jack Ma, the co-founder of tech giant Alibaba and one of the richest men in the world, posted a blog stating that young people should consider it a “huge blessing” to work 12 hours a day, six days a week.

“If you don’t put out more time and energy than others, how can you achieve the success you want?” he wrote, “Compared to them, up to this day, I still feel lucky, I don’t regret [working 12-hour days], I would never change this part of me.”

Ma’s blog post supports the Chinese work practice known as “996”. This number refers to working from 9am to 9pm six days a week, which is common among the country’s big technology firms and startups.

Ma’s opinion on work hours is just one side of the discussion. Some leaders may agree that long hours can lead to increased overall output from employees. On top of this, some executives require their employees to be accessible around the clock.

This brings us to our central question:

Do long work hours really increase workplace productivity?

According to research by the Institute of Employment Studies, long work hours (working over 40 hours a week) have various negative effects, including poor performance, decreased productivity, health problems and lower employee motivation.  Also, it may comprise their alertness and resourcefulness

In a study from the International Labour Office, shorter weekly hours were found to improve hourly productivity, especially in cases of cyclical or variable workloads. It has been shown that fewer hours mean that employees are more likely to spend their work time being productive. Reduced hours also improve work-life balance, which allows more time to sleep, making employees happier and more motivated to work.

This research indicates that longer hours don’t increase hourly productivity. While Ma’s approach certainly shows dedication to his company, it’s also important to take care of the well-being of employees. Long hours or not, productivity lies on how leaders manage their people.



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