Study: Work less for more productivity

Employees have been telling their bosses for years: Want us to work better? Then work us less.

Now, employees have data to back up their claims.

Researchers at the Organisation for Economic  Co-operation and Development (OECD) have discovered a correlation between the amount of hours you work and how productive you are: working longer hours results in a reduction of labor output.

The relationship between hours worked and productivity has interested economists for many years. But a new paper by John Pencavel of Stanford University, based on a set of data compiled during the First World War, may have the answers they have been searching for.

The British Health of Munition Workers Committee undertook research into how to maximize the productivity of workers in munitions plants, looking at the link between work hours and work performance.

Pencavel’s analysis shows that working more hours doesn’t necessarily increase overall output, but neither does working a very short week.

Pencavel looked at data from munition plant workers in Great Britain during World War I. He found that long hours led to fatigue and stress, which curtailed productivity and made accidents and illness more likely.

A century later, working overtime has been linked to higher rates of injury, illness, weight gain, alcohol use and smoking and, in general, an increased risk of mortality. One study found that putting in long hours could result in a 40 percent higher likelihood of coronary heart disease, compared with people who work standard hours.

CNN listed the 10 cities with the shortest working hours, and not surprisingly, none are in the United States. In fact, all 10 cities are located on continental Europe, with Paris ranking No. 1 as its workers only put in an average of 1,604 hours every year.