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You may think you're getting more accomplished by working longer hours. You're probably wrong.
There's been a flurry of recent coverage praising Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, forleaving the office every day at 5:30 p.m. to be with her kids. Apparently she's been doing this for years, but only recently "came out of the closet," as it were.
What's insane is that Sandberg felt the need to hide the fact, since there's a century of research establishing the undeniable fact that working more than 40 hours per week actually decreases productivity.
In the early 1900s, Ford Motor ran dozens of tests to discover the optimum work hours for worker productivity. They discovered that the "sweet spot" is 40 hours a week–and that, while adding another 20 hours provides a minor increase in productivity, that increase only lasts for three to four weeks, and then turns negative.
Anyone who's spent time in a corporate environment knows that what was true of factory workers a hundred years ago is true of office workers today. People who put in a solid 40 hours a week get more done than those who regularly work 60 or more hours.
The workaholics (and their profoundly misguided management) may think they're accomplishing more than the less fanatical worker, but in every case that I've personally observed, the long hours result in work that must be scrapped or redone.
Accounting for Burnout
What's more, people who consistently work long work weeks get burned out and inevitably start having personal problems that get in the way of getting things done.
I remember a guy in one company I worked for who used the number of divorces in his group as a measure of its productivity. Believe it or not, his top management reportedly considered this a valid metric. What's ironic (but not surprising) is that the group itself accomplished next to nothing.