Managers – Set Limits on Long Hours

Do you and your team work more than 40 hours per week? When it comes to productivity, longer hours are not better. As Sara Robinson writes in “Bring Back the 40-Hour Workweek, ” decades of research during the 20th Century showed us that 8 hours a day/40 hours a week was the maximum workload for efficiency, safety, and well-being.

Somehow we have gotten away from that and a salaried position often comes with the expectation that you do what you must to get the work done, even if that means working longer hours. And so, we have become accustomed to simply adding hours as our way of dealing with more work. This is a bad idea. Before you resort to putting in longer hours, first try at being more efficient and productive with the first 40 hours. Encourage your team to do the same.

Strategies for maximizing productivity while capping the workweek at 40 hours:

Be Flexible – if the workflow is not consistent from week to week, be open to flexible schedules, such as going back and forth between 30-hour and 50-hour workweeks. Find a rhythm instead of seeking a perfect balance.  Mandating 40 hours will create stress when there is 50 hours of work and bad habits when there is just 30 hours of work.

Problem-Solve – if it’s consistently taking longer than 40 hours a week to do everything that needs to get done, you have a problem of a) overambitious goals, b) insufficient resources, or c) lack of prioritization.

Find Contractors – if your problem is insufficient resources, but it doesn’t make sense to make a new permanent hire, consider working with contractors to add an extra hand to your staff when needed.

Prioritize – when you label everything as important, you are really saying that nothing is important. Don’t fall into the trap of saying everything is top priority and must be done ASAP. Set realistic deadlines instead.