Research Paper – Workplace Productivity: Investigations into the Relationship between Hours Worked and Employee Productivity

Workplace Productivity:
Investigations into the Relationship
between Hours Worked and Employee Productivity

Table of Content

A.   Introduction & Relevance to Us. 3

B.    Relevance to Contemporary Organizational Behaviour in the Canadian context 4

C.    Literature Search. 5

D.   The Case for the 6-hour Workday by Steve Glaveski on Harvard Business Review.. 6

E.    Working Hours and Productivity by IZA Institute of Labor Economics. 7

F.    In an 8-Hour Day, the Average Worker Is Productive for This Many Hours by Melanie Curtin on Inc.com

A. Introduction & Relevance to Us

In the past, the more hours spent at work was better. Especially in the countries came out from the war or disasters, like Germany or Japan, nations were supposed to work almost 15 – 16 hours to rebuild the economy and wealth of the country. However, now we’re in the age of ‘’less is more’’ mentality, and it manifests itself in the organizational settings too.  

For the last couple of decades, the relationship between the hours spent at work and productivity level reached has been increasingly investigated. What’s the humane number of work hours? What would be the optimum one that maximizes the efficiency and efficacy of the workers?

As Global Business Management students, and future managers and business owners, this area is of huge interest for us. In order to maximise the productivity of the individuals and teams, and optimise the office experience for the people that work for us, finding the optimum number of work hours that keep the employees productive and motivated should be targeted. After all, we know that humans are not robots, and our brain, body and mind have limits. When such limits are reached, our efficiency drops and there’d be no point to sit on our desks or stay in our offices anymore.

We believe that the workers should be kept in the office as long as they produce, work, and/or create. When they’re not able to do so anymore, keeping them in the office for more hours bring more harms than benefits.  

One of the biggest harms about it to the organization is the cost aspect. To keep employees at work for longer than enough is not a cost-friendly approach. Reducing the daily number of hours even for 1 hour for an organization of, say, 200,000 employees can result in a tremendous amount of cost reduction for the organization. If an organization manages to do this by having the outcome remain same, it would not only reduce the cost, and increase efficiency in the office, but also surge the motivation of employees by allowing them to spend more time with their families at home.  

Another disadvantage of overly long work hours is its effect on employee motivation. The more hours spent at offices mean fewer hours spent with families for the employees. If the employers can find the optimum number of hours that maximizes the productivity at the workplace, that makes the employees happy in and out of the office as they will be able to take better care of their families.

For the last few decades, certain books and publications have examined this topic. We wanted to have a close look and conduct comprehensive research to develop an understanding on the topic which will allow us to create efficient work settings for us, as well as people working for us, in the future. 

B. Relevance to Contemporary Organizational Behaviour in the Canadian context

Contemporary Organisational Behaviour focuses on making the organization a better place to work. It studies understanding how different individuals deal and react to different circumstances when it comes to working in an organization with different individuals. Work hours, workplace productivity, employee motivation, work-life balance, and interrelationships of these are studies within the scope of Organizational Behaviour studies.

In the present dynamic world, everything is changing at a fast pace and so is the way of doing work and the rules of the same. The focus of work has changed from taking the most out of the employees to listening to the employees and motivating them so that they can give their best. 

In recent times, it has been observed that technology has made the task of employees easy and what used to consume more time in the past, has started to consume less time in the present. As a result of this, the employees are looking to work for a lesser number of hours and give their best in those hours instead of working for a greater number of hours and wasting their time in non-productive activities.

One of the main reasons for this low level of productivity was that the employees were not happy in working for a greater number of hours due to which they were left for less number of hours for their personal life. Since then there have been a lot of changes in the way employees are treated in the organization and the number of hours they have to work in an organization. 

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been very active in making sure that the employee needs, and preferences are taken care of in Canada and that the employees are able to enjoy a work-life balance (Levitt, 2019). 

C. Literature Search

Carmichael, S. G. (2015). The Research Is Clear: Long Hours Backfire for People and for Companies. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved August 07, 2020, https://hbr.org/2015/08/the-research-is-clear-long-hours-backfire-for-people-and-for-companies

Collewet, M., Sauermann, J. (2017). Working Hours and Productivity. IZA Institute of Labor Economics. Retrieved from http://ftp.iza.org/dp10722.pdf

Curtin, M. (2016). In an 8-Hour Day, the Average Worker Is Productive for This Many Hours. Retrieved August 06, 2020, from https://www.inc.com/melanie-curtin/in-an-8-hour-day-the-average-worker-is-productive-for-this-many-hours.html

Glaveski, S. (2018). The Case for the 6-Hour Workday. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved August 07, 2020, from https://hbr.org/2018/12/the-case-for-the-6-hour-workday

Stanford University (Ed.). (N.d.). The Relationship Between Hours Worked and Productivity. Retrieved August 8, 2020, from https://cs.stanford.edu/people/eroberts/cs201/projects/crunchmode/econ-hours-productivity.html

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (Ed.). (N.d.). A Note on the Incorporation of Hours-Worked Hours Paid-Ratios from the Employment Cost Index into Hours at Work Measures. Retrieved August 8, 2020, from https://www.bls.gov/lpc/lprhws/lprhwhp.pdf

D. The Case for the 6-hour Workday by Steve Glaveski on Harvard Business Review

The nature of jobs has changed since the inception of the internet. In the socialism era, there was no limit on the number of hours worked, and children were working in coal mines, so a 40-hour workweek had to be adopted as a part of the Fair Labor Standards Act dated 1938. However, the situation is completely changed now and requires another adjustment. 

Jobs have become more complex and creative since 1938 so it does not matter the number of hours you spend on your work. the attention you pay to your work is the only thing that leads to productivity. Researches show that the productivity in jobs is actually related to the time you actually spend on thinking about them; however, employees waste their time because they have to spend their time on long-hour meetings, unplanned interruptions, travelling to meet their clients, paying attention to the least valued tasks, etc.

A two-week, six-hour workday experiment was done by the author to understand the relationship between the number of hours worked and workplace productivity. It showed that as the workday gets shorter, employees put more focus on their work without getting interrupted which ultimately increased their quantity and quality of work. It will also improve the mental state of the employees because they get more time to spend with their family and friends. Some people are against these findings, they argue that it is impossible to complete all their work within six hours. According to the author, rather than wasting your time on the unvalued tasks, more attention will be given to the high-value tasks. After all, everyone should accept that 4 focused hours are more productive than the 8 unfocused hours full of interruptions.

There are so many techniques provided by the author which ultimately increase the productivity of the employees. Employees need to prioritize their work based on the value-added, (if possible) automate the tasks they have to do, they need to focus on one task at a time, are some of them. If followed by employees, these will definitely increase their productivity in six-hour shifts and they will have more time to spend with their families.

After analysing the whole article, I would like to conclude that the number of hours worked by employees need to be reduced because attentively working for lesser number of hours is more important than wasting your time in long workdays. Short workdays will not only increase productivity, but the workers will feel more motivated, their stress levels will be decreased, and their retention rate will increase which is a win-win situation for both employer and employee.  

E. Working Hours and Productivity by IZA Institute of Labor Economics

The Working Hours and Productivity is a research paper by Marion Collewet and Jan Sauermann in 2017 researching 332 call centre workers as a sample to find out the correlation between productivity (individual performance) and working hours (average call handling time). The research outcome shows that an increase in the working hours leads to an increase in productivity by only 0.9 per cent based on the number calls answered. The paper also mentions that the decreasing productivity is minimal in this study because most of the workers are doing part-time, it could have gone double the rate if the employees were working full time. 

The work hours of any organization depend on the country it is operating, based on several factors like working hour rules and regulation, availability of part-time workers, and economy. In theory, there are two extremely opposite principles of labour productivity. On the one side, long working hours can lead to productivity if the worker has fixed set up cost and fixed unproductive time during the shift or if long shifts are required to better utilization of capital goods. The second theory is that the workers feel distressed and unfocused after a few hours of work so the marginal effect of productivity for an additional hour will start decreasing. The process to find out the direct relationship between working hours and productivity is really difficult due to the various factors such as unobservable characteristics of the industry, firm’s jobs, and an individual can hugely affect the productivity.

A majority of studies on productivity and working hours shows a negatively proportional result, decreasing productivity when increasing the working hour. Whereas there are some studies proving positive return to productivity with increasing working hours such as Feldstein, 1967; Craine, 1973; Leslie, 1984.

It is noted that the main reason behind the decrease in productivity after long working hours is fatigue and mainly experienced by workers in the manufacturing industry. The study points out that the reduction in the time of a regular workday has been reduced in the 20th century compared to the period of industrialization is part of the scientific innovation and modernization. Usage of tools and equipment which replaced human effort mostly in manufacturing sector reduced the working hour required for the completion of one task. 

The optimal number of workers in the workforce is another factor noted. The task force with unequal or inefficient labour make the work stressful and causes overload. The study found that controlling the shift timing of the sample (call centre workers) by reducing the call, adding slack time in between calls, only necessary calls during night shifts made a progressive increase in the performance of the staff. Even though the sample size is little, the study proves that productivity and working hours are indirectly proportional. 

F. In an 8-Hour Day, the Average Worker Is Productive for This Many Hours by Melanie Curtin on Inc.com

Have you ever wondered in a shift that’s 8 hours long, an average worker is active and efficient for how many hours?

Back in the day in the 18th century, a shift of 10-16 hours used to seem normal as the factories used to operate 24/7. When they realised long days are difficult and not sustainable, a Welsh activist like Robert Owen took the initiative and promoted comparatively shorter working hours. His intentions were to divide a day in 3 part with 8 hours of work, 8 to rest and the rest for leisure. So, 8 hours of work shifts are originated in the Industrial Revolution. However, now we’re in the Digital Age.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American works 8.8 hours a day. Nonetheless, a survey conducted with American office workers showed that most people do not work for much of the time. They do the following activities instead:

  • Reading newspapers or websites – 1 hour, 5 minutes 
  • Checking personal social media – 44 minutes 
  • Discussion of non-related work with colleagues – 40 minutes 
  • Job searches – 26 minutes 
  • Smoking break – 23 minutes 
  • Family and friends phone calls – 18 minutes 
  • Beverage break – 17 minutes 
  • Snacks break – 8 minutes 
  • Eating food during work hour – 7 minutes 

Research suggests that the average worker in an eight-hour day is only productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes, so just around three hours.

After reading this article, we strongly believe that the work time of the workers should be decreased because even if they sit in the office for 9-5 job, they are not productive for all those 8 hours anyway. They only concentrate for about three hours. If the work hours are decreased, at least there is a possibility that the productivity of the work will be increased as well as job satisfaction. They will also be able to spend more time to rest and spend with family.

References

Collewet, M., Sauermann, J. (2017). Working Hours and Productivity. IZA Institute of Labor Economics.Retrieved from http://ftp.iza.org/dp10722.pdf 

Curtin, M. (2016). In an 8-Hour Day, the Average Worker Is Productive for This Many Hours. Retrieved August 06, 2020, from https://www.inc.com/melanie-curtin/in-an-8-hour-day-the-average-worker-is-productive-for-this-many-hours.html 

Glaveski, S. (2018). The Case for the 6-Hour Workday. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved August 07, 2020, from https://hbr.org/2018/12/the-case-for-the-6-hour-workday

Labour Productivity Growth. (n.d.). Retrieved August 07, 2020, from https://www.conferenceboard.ca/hcp/Details/Economy/measuring-productivity-canada.aspx?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1 

Levitt, H. (2019). Liberal moves to legislate work-life balance are voter friendly, but disastrous for business. Financial Post. Retrieved August 8, 2020, from https://financialpost.com/executive/careers/liberal-moves-to-legislate-work-life-balance-are-voter-friendly-but-disastrous-for-business

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