The notion that the longer you toil at your workplace, the more you get done may not be true after all. Or so says the latest research of K. Anders Ericsson, one of the foremost experts on the psychology of work.
For decades, the 40-hour workweek has been considered the most productive and balanced approach to extracting the best of workers while giving them enough “own time” to show up ready and willing to their workplace come Monday.
Mr. Ericsson’s work, however, disputes this conventional setup, suggesting that a smarter, more streamlined approach might actually yield better results for both employers and employees.
His research, conducted over the course of several months in the Swedish city of Gothenburg, found that people can put in a maximum of 4 to 5 hours of effective work before their performance levels begin to decline.
“If you’re pushing people well beyond that time they can really concentrate maximally, you’re very likely to get them to acquire some bad habits,” Mr. Ericsson told the Tech Insider.
His findings have been substantiated by a number of companies who decided to shorten the work hours or switch to a four-day workweek, as was the case with Treehouse, an online technology school that offers beginner to advanced courses in web design, web development, mobile development and game development.
CEO Ryan Carson, who made the switch to a 32-hour work week in 2006, told the Atlantic last year that the move not only made employees happier, but increased productivity as well.
“It’s not about more family time, or more play time, or less work time — it’s about living a more balanced total life,” he said.
“We basically take ridiculously good care of people because we think it’s the right thing to do.”
Web development company Reusser Design has seen similar improvements since changing to a four-day week in 2013, even though employees are working longer hours to make up for the lost Friday.
“You wouldn’t believe how much we get done,” he told CNN last year, adding that the new regime has substantially improved employees’ work rate.
Another example of a successful transition from the conventional 40-day workweek comes from Utah, where former governor Jon Huntsman switched nearly three quarters of all state employees to working four 10-hour days in the midst of America’s financial crisis in 2008.
Per the Business Insider, the benefits from the switch were twofold. Not only did it increase morale by providing employees with an extra day off to spend with their families, but it also saved public resources that would have otherwise been used to heat, cool, and power the buildings — which can sure come in handy when savings are a top priority.
The case for braking from the “good old” 40-hour workweek has been made. Now it is up to the powers that be whether it will take root on a wider scale, or be dismissed altogether.