SURVEY SAYS: Hours Worked/Productivity Link

I read an article about some research that found people who work more than the 40-hour work week are less productive than those who work 40 hours a week or less.

Last week, I asked NewsDash readers, “How many hours a week do you usually work, and do you feel you are more or less productive because of it?”

The majority of responding readers work more than a 40-hour work week, with 46.6% indicating they work 41 to 50 hours per week, 17.8% work 51 to 60 hours and 2.7% work more than 60 hours. Slightly more than one-quarter (26%) reported they usually work 40 hours, and 6.8% work less than 40 hours per week.               

Among those who work 40 hours or less per week, 42.5% said they feel they are more productive because they do so. More than one-third (37.5%) said they do not feel they are more productive, and 20% chose “I don’t know.”

Among those who work 41 hours or more, one-third (33.3%) feel they are less productive than if they worked less hours, while 52.6% don’t feel that way, and 14% selected “I don’t know.”

In comments left by readers, several rejected the idea that more hours equals less productivity, but others said it was a natural conclusion, that you are more tired and lose focus. Quite a few expressed some regret about working extended hours in the past, with one reader saying, “Let me put it in real life ‘been there, done that,’ perspective; never wish you would have given your kid what you gave the office. They will both move along, quite quickly, without you.” Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said: “Jobs should be designed so that the norm is for 40 hours per week and that all work gets done in that time. Of course there are peak times or deadlines when extra hours might be necessary. When an employee or group consistently has to work 50-plus hours, then management needs to step back and address the situation since there is either inadequate resources/staffing or vast inefficiencies in the processes.”

Thank you to everyone who participated in the survey!


Some days feel like they are never-ending, and those are really my most non-productive days. Days that seem to fly by are when I know I am working most efficiently. Today is lasting forever.

Personality comes into play.

I believe it is personal attitude and time management that will help you stay matter how many hours a week you work.

If it requires more than 40 hours to do your work, then that's what it takes. Vary your tasks and get up and walk around. A couple of hours per day should not affect productivity.

My extra hours are in the morning and I am able to accomplish much more during those 'quiet' hours, I am in meetings in the afternoons so in order to get my work completed, I must work the extra hours.

I found that when I have a defined stopping time, I would work faster and get more accomplished then if I left late. Maybe subconsciously I built in some fluff time because I knew I could stay later and work if I needed to.

I work from home every Wednesday. This makes me more productive in total because I "recharge" the battery and am more willing to work longer hours the 4 days that I am in the office

One thing I do know is that once I exceed 50 hrs/wk or work 14 or more days in a row without any down time, my accuracy is definitely impacted as well as the clarity of my communications. While employers are pushing employees to be more active in the community and be more physically active to increase health and reduce health insurance costs, by the time you put in 50-60 hrs and try to make time for your family, there is nothing left for anything else. This can leave you feeling very empty especially if your job does not match your gifting and passion in life.

The marginal value of each additional hour past some number (probably around 40) decreases. I'm glad I work at a job now where I don't have to worry about face time (I telework), and my performance is measured by what I produce, not how many hours it took me to produce it.

It stands to reason that the more hours you work the less productive you will be. Your concentration and physical stamina go down with time

I use to work a lot less hours and was more productive, but it was because I was not involved in so many meetings. We have new boss who is pushing a much stronger style/culture of collaboration and communication. This has drastically reduced productivity, but I am still holding out hope that it will lead to better long-term decisions.

Verbatim (cont.) 

As a younger employee (only 35) trying to build a career I use the extra 8 to 10 hours a week to continue to evolve my skill set in hopes of making career jumps in a more accelerated fashion (and thus far it has worked as I'm one of the youngest Senior Consultants in the organization). The way I see it, an extra day or so a week equates to an extra 40 to 50 days per year that I'm contributing that my co-workers and peers are not. Additionally, working those extra hours allows me to take longer PTO breaks outside the office (like a recent 17-day trip to South Africa). As my wife and I don't have any kids yet, now is the time to put the extra effort in.

The observation is backwards for the cause and effect. People who "feel" they are less productive tend to work more hours to make up for it. That is what is being observed.

"I don't buy it" -- yes, long hours may occasionally tire me, but that's not at all the norm. I work more than 40 hours because that's what needed to get the work done. Work environments, distractions, other emergencies, and of course an individual's work ethic are what contributes to productivity, not watching a clock.

Less hours keep me mentally alert and less exhausted!

I am a "semi-retired" consultant with a reduced work schedule of 40 to 50 hours per week. Because the work is varied and interesting, my productivity is high. It is a lot more fun than sitting at home and watching Andy Griffith reruns.

When you work over 50 or 60 hours a week, sometimes the biggest challenge is staying awake.

I know people who work extra hours by working through their lunch break. If I don't have that break to refocus my brain, my attention in the afternoon suffers.

I'd love to work 40 or less hours each week and am confident that I would not be as productive but would have significantly greater expense due to money spent on hobbies and shopping, both of which chip away at my retirement savings or force my anticipated retirement date to be pushed further into the future.

For me, working beyond 8 hours a day brings diminishing returns and the cumulative effect of working this way for consecutive days makes productivity even worse.

If I didn't have to attend so many unproductive meetings, I could get more done in a day and only work 40 hours!

Jobs should be designed so that the norm is for 40 hours per week and that all work gets done in that time. Of course there are peak times or deadlines when extra hours might be necessary. When an employee or group consistently has to work 50 plus hours, then management needs to step back and address the situation since there is either inadequate resources/staffing or vast inefficiencies in the processes.

Verbatim (cont.) 

I do my best to work a 40 hour week. But when it is necessary I will work longer hours. I feel that because I choose what is important enough to work additional hours that I am productive. I notice that the times I work the longest hours are the week before my vacation, the 2 weeks week after my vacation and the weeks my peers are on vacation because I have to do the important pieces of their work while they are out. Moral of the story—vacations generate longer hours

Brain fatigue sets in after 40 hours and it takes longer to accomplish the task at hand due to inability to fully focus.

I would prefer to shorten the week to less than 40 and feel I could be just as productive.

What's a 40 hour work week?

Working to just fill the normal hours of work is usually unproductive. Because we work globally, we work when the time zones require we work, which increases productivity, but eliminates set hours. We are also big proponents of siestas for increasing productivity.

I don't know if I'd be more productive if I worked less than 40 hours/week, but I'd like to give it a try.

I work in a small office and most of the time I'm working while others are chit chatting!

I definitely get more done with more hours worked, but it varies as to whether I am more productive on a per hour basis. I do know that when I am at work long hours, I'm definitely less productive at home!

I find that I need to work most Saturdays as it is much quieter in the office and I can get more work done than during the week. I also work on company confidential matters that are challenging to work on during the regular week as people are constantly in my office.

I will work more diligently to get out of here on time as opposed to having to stay late; however, workload can also be a factor!

Coming into work early or staying after normal working hours when everything is quiet and there are no interruptions is probably the most productive time for me.

Verbatim (cont.) 

Let me put it in real life "been there-done that", perspective; never wish you would have given your kid what you gave the office. They will both move along, quite quickly, without you.

You work to complete your tasks. Since I have less time (and more work) I try to be as productive as I can since I would rather be home with my family.

More than 40 hours is like your college GPA: anything over a 2.5 is another beer you should have had.

Nothing drives me nuts like people who "put in the hours" just for show. I fell into that trap early on in my career. I wish I could have those hours of my life back. I'm done playing the game. I work hard AND efficiently now!

Do you ever wonder how many hours we would work if we weren't multi-tasking all the time? Would it be more or less hours than we do now?

In a crunch, I can work longer hours and maintain productivity. But generally, if I don't make time for sleep and exercise, I'll get less done in 10 to 11 hours of work than I normally will in 8. I try hard to avoid crunches: they're stressful.

I don't doubt that there are those who are 'at" work and not productive, and that some, perhaps many, have to work more than 40 hours to do the work they could have done in 40, but didn't because they screwed around instead of doing what they should have been doing. But I work the hours I do because I have a job to do and that transcends the timeclock. We do, however, still seem to prize time worked while others are in the office (e.g., those who work late seen as harder working than those who are in 2 hours before anybody else), or those who work in the office, rather than those who take it home. Out of sight, out of mind, I suppose. But that's not the way it should be.

It's usually not up to me--if there's a busy time, my deadlines don't change just because I have more work than usual. So if I have to work more than 40 hours to get it done, I will.

The expectation is to work 50 hours. After 45 I don't believe productivity decreases. Fatigue sets in at the end of the week.

I really think less hours would be stressful because I know my work would not have my full attention and, it would be hurry up to just get it done. Would my hours be more productive - it depends on at what cost to the quality of work I put out.


NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not necessarily the stance of Asset International or its affiliates.