5 Proven Reasons Working Longer Doesn’t Help Productivity

Contrary to popular belief, the more time you spend working doesn’t mean more productivity.

Do you work overtime and on the weekends and expect more work will be done? It just seems logical that clocking in longer hours of work would increase work output. Working less may be more productive.

Below are 5 proven reasons (according to research studies) that working longer hours doesn’t necessarily equate to higher productivity. Hopefully, after reading you can focus more on working smart rather than working hard (or long).

The World’s Most Productive And Richest Countries Have The Shortest Work Days

You maybe thinking that the world’s richest countries work the longest. Well not exactly… It may be puzzling that some developed and productive countries the work days are actually shorter. This may sound counter-intuitive but according to the recent data of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development along with the work hours data from the Central Intelligence Agency (yes, the spy people), longer hours doesn’t really mean a higher work output. The top seven countries with the highest GDP or the Gross Domestic Product – one of the measures of a country’s output and productivity are also the countries that have the shortest work hours. The list includes Luxembourg, Norway, Switzerland, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Sweden. These countries’ work hours only averaged about 29 hours per week. Still thinking about 40 hour work week is short?

Structure and Breaks Matter More

Scared of taking breaks? You may need it more than you think. In a recent study conducted by the Draugiem Group, an umbrella company with social networking and a bunch of startup companies, found out that work hours didn’t matter that much. What matters more is how the people structure or their work day or some people would call focus blocking. They used a computer application that measured the time people spent on different activities as well as their productivity levels. They also found out that people who routinely take breaks are more productive than people who spent more hours working. According to the study, the ideal work-break distribution is 17 minutes of break for every 52 minutes of time spent working. People who maintain this work schedule are far more likely to be focused on their work and get things done. Just ease up on the breaks and don’t take too much or you’ll be in danger of not finishing anything at all.

Clocking more than 50 hours per Week Actually, Makes You Less Productive

Are you an overtime addict? If you go beyond the usual 40 hour work week you may not be as productive as you think… In a research lead by John Pencavel of Stanford University found out that productivity of employees begins to decline upon hitting the 50 hour per work week mark. Interestingly, employees who clock in more than 70 hours per week are only as productive as the employees hitting the 50-55 work week mark. You might need to think twice about going on overtime.

Working Longer Hours Is Dangerous to Your Health

We’ve all heard that cigarette smoking is dangerous to your health with those countless ads and warning labels. But according to a research study, working too much is dangerous to our health as well. Researchers compiled over 25 different studies amounting to 600,000 individuals and found out that people working more than 55 hours per week are about 33% more likely to develop stroke. 

In another study that was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology which was also published in another article, workers who clocked in more than 55 hours per week of work have less than satisfactory cognitive skills and reduced overall short term memory. However, those who worked about 40 regular work hours per week did not have the same adverse effects. It seems that working too much for an X number of dollars may not be worth it after all.

What History has Taught Us

The current 8 hour work day that many countries adopt right now came from the industrial revolution. A man named Robert Owen pioneered this idea to take care of his workers in his mill. He realized that this was not enough and adopted the slogan “Eight Hours’ Labour, Eight Hours’ Recreation, Eight Hours’ Rest.”. Another pioneer named Ernst Abbe moved his worker’s 9 hours per day work to 8 hours and noticed an increased output. Lastly, the famous Henry Ford gave his workers an additional day off from a 6-day work week to a 5-day work week. He also noted an increase in productivity. History is trying to tell us that we need to improve our ways not just to better take care of ourselves but also to improve our work. If we don’t, as they say those who do not learn from the past are bound to repeat them. I hope we are not going back to the slavery days or are we already the modern slaves?


We have always been taught that the longer we work the more we get things done. Well, according to the studies above that may not be the case. As shown, the world’s most productive and richest countries are doing well even with shorter days. We also noted that beaks and the structure of our work day are effective productivity boosters. Working more than 50 hours per week actually brings down our productivity. Our health may also suffer from working too much. And lastly, history has taught us valuable lessons on not working too much. With these, maybe we can safely say that we need to step back and re-evaluate our work habits and be more productive instead of working more time and losing what really matters to us.

Are there any other proven reasons why working longer hours may not mean productivity? I’d love to hear them in the comments section below!

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