Does overtime have a positive effect on productivity? – Forbes in France

Slack, the collaboration platform that once encouraged employees to respond outside of work hours, is issuing a new warning. Now, he says, people who feel pressured to work after hours tend to be less productive.

Article by Jena McGregor for Forbes USA – translated by Lisa Deleforterie

A new survey by Slack’s Workforce Lab, which surveyed approximately 10,000 employees, found that people who disconnect at the end of the workday report 20% higher productivity scores than those who feel compelled to work after hours. Unsurprisingly, people who feel the need to connect after work report twice the stress and burnout rates of their counterparts who choose to disconnect.

The survey results – a follow-up to Slack’s Future Forum study, which was widely cited during the Covid-19 pandemic – come at the end of a year when many CEOs have driven to “do more with less” in the name of “higher productivity”. “A back-to-the-office mentality and policy that has frustrated many workers due to workplace distractions and long hours lost to commuting. But in reality, these efforts could impair productivity.

Do not disturb

“The conventional wisdom in productivity has always been that if you want to produce more, you have to work more,” says Christina Janzer, senior vice president of research and analytics and head of Slack’s Workforce Lab, which conducts research and experiments to improve work methods. “It’s an opportunity to dispel myths. More hours don’t necessarily mean more productivity. »

Janzer admits that while Slack has do not disturb settings, status updates and scheduled sending tools, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Ultimately, “it’s up to the company, the team and the culture to set those ground rules,” he says.

Slack’s survey is based on self-reported responses rather than specific measures of study participants’ productivity or the number of hours they worked. It found that employees who worked longer hours showed similar daily efficiency to those who worked according to a schedule, suggesting that managers are not doing enough to prioritize work and prevent feeling overwhelmed. For many organizations, the latest data shows that “there is a real opportunity for managers to play a bigger role in helping people set priorities and improve work efficiency,” he says.

The survey also found that office workers consider four hours a day to be the ideal time for focused work and that they feel overworked beyond two hours of meetings. In addition, half of the office workers surveyed said they rarely or never take breaks during the workday.

Employee productivity plummeted after a 50-hour work week

The survey’s findings about long working hours and productivity are not new. Academic research has long shown that, beyond a certain threshold, overtime can lead to lower productivity. For example, a 2014 study found that employee productivity dropped sharply after a 50-hour work week, and then even more so after 55 hours. A study by Boston University consultants found that managers can’t tell the difference between those who actually work 80 hours a week and those who say they do. A World Health Organization (WHO) study concludes that working 55 hours or more per week is associated with an estimated 35% increased risk of stroke and an estimated 17% increased risk of death from heart disease.

Yet at a time when hybrid work arrangements and the influx of technology are allowing us to rethink work models and practices, this study serves as a reminder that there are other solutions than simply extending working hours to get more people. “Productivity is not linear,” says Janzer, who notes that 75% of survey respondents reported a drop in productivity in the afternoon, between 3 and 6 p.m. “It’s possible to think about how people structure their day. »

The Slack survey also found that people who reported being the most productive were more likely to report using time management strategies such as blocking off time for specific tasks, only checking email at specific times, and setting timers to stay focused. The Slack platform itself is experimenting with some productivity tools. Recently, Christina Janzer’s team ran a “speed meeting week” in which she cut the length of all meetings in half—all 30-minute blocks were scheduled to 15, for example—to find out how much time was actually needed.

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