Entrepreneur Article: The Futility of 80-Hour Work Weeks


By Bill Hall: Let me say up front that from experience, if I had to choose, I believe a 30-hour work week is more effective than a long work week. I’ve lived both worlds for years at a time so I have non-theoretical first-hand knowledge. Time spent in the trenches of a large scale, high-tech turnaround that married me to my desk night, day and weekends versus a clearly architected lifestyle work environment has produced scars of different shapes and sizes. But taking a step back and looking at the debate creates a common sense question -- Why does everything have to be so extreme? Isn’t there a common sense, moderate in-between somewhere. Whoa, wait, what about a 40-hour work week? Let’s have a look at the pros and cons of each.

The endless hours work model.
I have worked in the San Francisco Bay area almost all my life. I started in high tech in the early 1990s working at Apple. In those days, people worked hard and for longer hours, but only when necessary because there was something to be done. There really wasn’t a badge of honor or set of work hour expectations. It was quite the opposite. No one really talked about or tracked the hours.

Then came the late 1990s. This seemed to have ushered in this level of work hour competition. I can tell you, from first-hand experience and observation, that continuous long hours is idiotic. We need sleep, downtime and distractions. There is endless research on this topic. But in summary, it can be seen in the level of non-farm employee productivity. We have access to faster computers, faster information gathering and a sea of collaboration tools. Yet, productivity is getting lower.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics Productivity Report, Sept. 2016, U.S. nonfarm labor decreased .6 percent in the second quarter of 2016. How can this be? At the same time, output and hours worked increased by a whopping 1.1 percent and 1.7 percent respectively. This means people are working harder and longer resulting in lower productivity. This is startling trend. With all the access to technology and resources, how could corporate productivity be sinking?

Without rest, employees make bad decisions. Worse yet, they stall on making any decision at all. Their abilities simply crumble and productivity crumbles with it. In my case, I worked at Apple through the big turnaround on projects like Mac OS X, iMac and more. My V.P. repeatedly emphasized rest, water and recharging. “I want marathon runners, not sprinters,” he would emphasize.

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