Working More Doesn't Mean You're Being More Productive

Adding more hours to your already hectic workday might be a big mistake

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Try as we might maintain a healthy work-life balance, it's no secret that in today's competitive job market the balance is skewed towards "work' rather than "life'. An already hectic workday at the office stretches to equally strenuous worknights, which in turn spill out into your precious weekend. Before you know it, you're effectively working six days (and nights) a week and spending Sundays prepping for the week ahead.

At least you're being more productive, right? That's not necessarily true. In fact, research indicates that working longer hours is only beneficial in the short term, especially when you're completing a critical time-sensitive task. This was backed up in a landmark experiment recently conducted by a New Zealand-based company.

More About The Experiment

The company in question is Perpetual Guardian, a company that manages trusts, wills and estates. Led by their founder Andrew Barnes' idea to offer his employees a better work-life balance, Perpetual Guardian trialled a landmark four-day working week during March and April of this year. The 240 staff members at the company worked four, eight-hour days but were paid for five, enjoying three days off.

Barnes explained that the extra day off was to allow his employees to deal with personal commitments much more effectively, enabling them to focus entirely on professional commitments during the four working days. He also invited academics to collect qualitative and quantitative data before and after the trial to gauge its effectiveness.

The Results

In a hugely encouraging piece of news for entrepreneurs who're struggling with huge workloads that leave no time for a personal life, the trail turned out to be a resounding success. The researchers noted that job and life satisfaction increased on all levels across the home and work front, with employees performing better in their jobs and enjoying them more than before the experiment.

Having been polled before the new system was implemented, 54 per cent of the staff felt that they could effectively balance their work and home commitments, a figure that jumped significantly to 78 per cent after the trial finished. Staff stress levels went down by seven percentage points while stimulation, commitment and a sense of empowerment all improved significantly. Overall life satisfaction also went up by 5 percentage points.

Other Strategies You Can Employ

If shifting to a four-day workweek is beyond the question for your organisation, that doesn't mean you can't take steps to simultaneously improve productivity and employee satisfaction. A 2017 report compiled by Siegel + Gale put forth the case for employing clear and simple strategies at work. It recommended creating a culture of simplicity with clear, open communication channels that clearly demarcate employees' roles to the overall goals of the company.

Another simple and uncomplicated method to boost productivity was to encourage employees to work collaboratively, according to a Stanford study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology in July 2014. Participants who were encouraged to work in a team persisted with their tasks 64 per cent longer than their solitary colleagues. The impact of this decision was also seen for several weeks, during which they also reported higher engagement levels, lower fatigue levels and a higher success rate.

Along the same lines, a study published in the journal Cognition in February 2011 revealed how taking a short break in regularly-spaced intervals while engaged in a particularly trying task keeps you from being mentally stagnant. Getting up and moving around is the ideal way to do so, says a study published in Preventive Medicine in April 2015.