Working overtime reduces productivity. But why, nevertheless, do many people continue to sit up at their workplace?
Between 1853 and 1870, Baron Haussmann ordered the destruction of most of Paris. The slums were demolished and turned into bourgeois quarters, and the city, which once looked like a maze, turned into an orderly space with many wide boulevards (remember Boulevard Saint Germain) and straight avenues (for example, Champs Elysees). Poor Parisians tried to resist, but were eventually forced to retreat, their homes were demolished with little or no warning and little or no compensation. From a working-class city with the features of a medieval settlement, Paris was transformed into a bourgeois and modern city in less than two decades.
Paris undergoes another rapid transformation every August. Tourists fill its picturesque streets. Businesses and institutions are being closed. On the streets, instead of monotonous French speech, there is English, Italian and Spanish discord. French workers must be on vacation for at least 31 days, and almost all of them choose this month in order to travel to Cannes or to visit Italy, Spain and Greece, where there is an affectionate Mediterranean Sea, and life does not stop, as here.
Some may call it laziness, but, in fact, French vacationers throughout August are trying to get rid of the negative consequences of overly intense work in this way. The city is changing rapidly, and the same can be said for the way people work in France - and vacation time is paying off. Although the amount of work time in general, as on a moving scale, corresponds to how productive you work, the duration of work and its quality at a certain point begin to be inversely related. In other words, at some point it turns out that the more you work, the less productive your work becomes.
For example, lengthening the working day often leads to a weakening of attention, which negatively affects productivity. As an example, we can cite one statement, which is commonly called Parkinson's law. It says: work fills all the time allotted for it. Work less and you will probably work better.
The same goes for maintaining certain skills. K. Anders Ericsson, professor of psychology at Florida State University, did research in Berlin and found that the amount of time successful musicians devote to everyday practice was surprisingly small - just 90 minutes a day. In fact, not only do the most successful musicians rehearse less, they can take some naps during the day, and take breaks from their studies when they start to feel tired or stressed.
It has long been noted that working too long leads to stress that shortens life expectancy. It also leads to distraction during work, as it cannot be sustained for a period well in excess of 50 hours per week. Even Henry Ford was aware of the problem of working too long, and he reduced the working week from 48 hours to 40 hours. He believed that working more than 40 hours a week caused workers to make numerous mistakes. He talks about this in his biography entitled "My Life, My Achievements" (My Life and Work).
But what if we consider leisure not as an idle pastime, but as a necessary time for reflection?
Of course, some low-wage workers are forced to work long hours or multiple jobs in order to be able to make ends meet. But why do other salaried workers - including those receiving incredibly high wages - stay too long at work, when in most cases they do not need to?
Alexandra Michel, a former Goldman Sachs employee who became a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania, found that two well-known investment banks (she did not specify which ones) had an average of 120 hours a week (that is, they worked 17 hours a day every day). This led to the fact that they "not only stopped paying attention to family and health", but also stayed at work late even when their bosses did not ask them to do so, and at the same time they understood that work for 16 or 17 hours per day will not increase their productivity.
Michelle came to the conclusion that people who work hard do not stay long at work because of "rewards, punishment, or because they have to do it." Rather, they do it "because they cannot imagine another option, even if what they are doing is meaningless."
Employees who stay at work for a long time just to stay at work look pretty silly. Perhaps the reason for this behavior is that it makes a strong impression on others. Doing business involves intense work, which implies a good character, solid education, and financial well-being - present or future. The phrase “I can’t, I’m busy” sends a signal that you are not just a serious person, un home serieux, but also an important person.
Also, in many countries - especially the United States - people believe that work, by definition, is a noble pursuit. Many are lost in life without the stimulating effects of work - even if such a situation is not proportionally beneficial and cannot be considered healthy in a physical or psychological sense.
Probably everyone will agree with Aristotle, who said that "we work to have free time, on which happiness depends." Employees are motivated by the lure of a carefree life after retirement. However, this causal relationship is often skewed to the point that we tailor our lives to fit our work - instead of tailoring our work to ours. The widespread belief that happiness and life satisfaction can only be achieved through hard work is more the basis of the managerial myth of motivating employees than an obvious philosophical truth.
In his 1932 article In Praise of Idleness, British philosopher Bertrand Russell corrects this idea and emphasizes that the belief that work is a virtue has done great harm. " Whereas, in his opinion, "the path to happiness and prosperity involves an orderly reduction of work."
This means that happiness, ultimately, can be found not when a person stays at work for a long time, but when he finds ways to reduce work, even if this means limiting the ability to purchase some things or changing some estimates - including abandoning the notion that free time is indicative of moral flaws.
Economists have been writing for a long time about how easy it would be for us to reduce our working days as the technology we use becomes more efficient. Adam Smith's Theory of the Pin says that if it normally takes a worker eight hours a day to make a set number of pins, inventing a method of production that doubles or triples the rate at which they are produced would reduce the amount of work time proportionally. According to this theory, we should work less, as the great British economist John M. Keynes confirms in his work Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren. We may not be able to push for a 15-hour work week as he suggests, but fewer hours would be a good idea.
In some professions, it makes sense to work longer than necessary because wages are paid on an hourly basis, rather than a predetermined amount. This option, of course, suffers the client, who ultimately pays for unproductive work, but in the short term it is a good option for a law firm. In addition, while overwork can lead to a dramatic decrease in productivity (productivity drops cost US companies between $ 450 billion and $ 550 billion annually), plus increased stress and illness, it is still cheaper to hire one employee to work on 80 hours a week than to hire two people to work 40 hours a week.
At the same time, some companies began to move away from such attitudes and adopt a philosophy that can be summed up in the words “work less, work better”. Michigan-based software company Menlo Innovations frowns upon employees who work more than 40 hours a week, and their management views recycling not as a sign of loyalty but as a sign of inefficiency. Working overtime has even led to several layoffs at the company, as reported by Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time). Ultimately, there is also a simple reason for keeping overtime work - cultural inertia. Americans have often sat down at work in the past, and so regardless of technology and leaps in efficiency, we continue to work the same number of hours, even though this has little or no impact on productivity. In addition, everyone is already accustomed to certain things, and therefore it will take courage and some degree of naivety to be the first person in the office to start reducing the number of hours worked "for the sake of efficiency" without fear of repercussions.
Many people continue to believe in the fundamental importance of work versus free time: it creates a certain foundation, contains a purpose, and defines a moral attitude. But what if we begin to consider leisure not as idleness, but as a necessary time for reflection, for finding creative approaches, as well as for maintaining thinking abilities and accumulating energy for future work?
France has its own economic problems, but less than 9% of French people “stay at work for a very long time” (for comparison: 11% of Americans “stay at work for a very long time”, while Turkey has the highest percentage of such employees - 43%). France also has one of the world's best work-life balance. Excessive work, at best, is meaningless, and at worst, it does real damage. Working too long has an impact on our physical and psychological health, as well as the amount of time we spend with our family; This is often due to our desire to ennoble the work and to feel its fruitfulness (even if you are not doing productively), as well as the desire to tell other people “I am busy”, which is perceived as an indicator of social prestige.
It took a lot of work to create modern Paris. Baron Haussmann was hated by many Parisians for his concept of a more efficient Paris: over the 17 years of his project, he constantly faced negative public attitudes towards his work, as described in Patrice de Moncan's book Le Paris d'Haussmann). However, Haussmann did not take any long breaks during the entire duration of his project, and Napoleon III urged him to complete all the work as soon as possible. In the early 1870s, he completed the Place de l'Opéra and was preparing to begin construction of the national opera house itself.
However, after Napoleon III appointed Émile Ollivier, an active critic of Haussmann, as prime minister, the emperor fell under the influence of Haussmann's opponents and dismissed him. Haussmann initially experienced serious difficulties, he spent a lot of time abroad and did not appear in public until the late 1870s, when he returned to Paris to re-engage in politics. A year before his return, construction was completed on the building of the National Opera in Paris.