Is It Worth Working More Than 40 Hours Per Week?

There’s been a flurry of recent coverage praising Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, for leaving the office every day at 5:30 p.m. to be with her kids.  Apparently she’s been doing this for years, but only recently “came out of the closet,” as it were.

What’s insane is that Sandberg felt the need to hide the fact, since there’s a century of research establishing the undeniable fact that working more than 40 hours per week actually decreases productivity.

In the early 1900s, Ford Motor ran dozens of tests to discover the optimum work hours for worker productivity.  They discovered that the “sweet spot” is 40 hours a week–and that, while adding another 20 hours provides a minor increase in productivity, that increase only lasts for three to four weeks, and then turns negative.

Anyone who’s spent time in a corporate environment knows that what was true of factory workers a hundred years ago is true of office workers today.  People who put in a solid 40 hours a week get more done than those who regularly work 60 or more hours.

The workaholics (and their profoundly misguided management) may think they’re accomplishing more than the less fanatical worker, but in every case that I’ve personally observed, the long hours result in work that must be scrapped or redone.

Accounting for Burnout

What’s more, people who consistently work long work weeks get burned out and inevitably start having personal problems that get in the way of getting things done.

I remember a guy in one company I worked for who used the number of divorces in his group as a measure of its productivity.  Believe it or not, his top management reportedly considered this a valid metric. What’s ironic (but not surprising) is that the group itself accomplished next to nothing.

In fact, now that I think about it, that’s probably why he had to trot out such an absurd (and, let’s face it, evil) metric.

Proponents of long work weeks often point to the even longer average work weeks in countries like Thailand, Korea, and Pakistan–with the implication that the longer work weeks are creating a competitive advantage.

Europe’s Ban on 50-Hour Weeks

However, the facts don’t bear this out.  In six of the top 10 most competitive countries in the world (Sweden, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, and the United Kingdom), it’s illegal to demand more than a 48-hour work week.  You simply don’t see the 50-, 60-, and 70-hour work weeks that have become de rigeur in some parts of the U.S. business world.

If U.S. managers were smart, they’d end this “if you don’t come in on Saturday, don’t bother coming to work on Sunday” idiocy.  If you want employees (salaried or hourly) to get the most done–in the shortest amount of time and on a consistent basis–40 hours a week is just about right.

In other words, nobody should be apologizing for leaving at work at a reasonable hour like 5:30 p.m.  In fact, people should be apologizing if they’re working too long each week–because it’s probably making the team less effective overall.

Welcomemat Franchise Comes to Bellevue, Washington

Atlanta, GA (USA), Wednesday – April 18th, 2012 — Welcomemat Services ( http://www.welcomematservices.com ) announced today the signing of three new franchise agreements in the past 60 days, fueling the growth of the Atlanta-based marketing strategies and technology company that provides monthly direct-mail packages to new movers. The franchise agreements are for new markets in Nashville, Tenn., Asheville, N.C. and Bellevue, Wash. Additionally, Randy Rhea, an existing franchisee in Augusta, Ga., became the company’s first multi-unit owner with the recent opening of a second territory serving the greater Charleston, N.C. area.

“One thing that has had a positive impact on our growth is that as the franchise matures, our current franchisees are able to validate the system with their results,” said Brian Mattingly, CEO. “Utilizing their success has been extremely helpful in the recruitment process.”

The Welcomemat ( http://www.welcomematservices.com ) program is designed to target new residents when they move into an area by presenting them with invitations to try various businesses and organizations, helping them to get acclimated to their new surroundings. Unique in the estimated $133 billion local advertising market, Welcomemat not only provides local businesses access to new loyal customers, but its specialized patented technology stores and logs customer demographics for use by the local businesses it supports. It’s the first and only cooperative mail service to employ proprietary technology that enables new resident information to be barcoded onto every gift check, allowing clients to receive free customized tracking and information reports regarding responses to their offers.

Since franchising began in early 2010, Welcomemat ( http://www.welcomematservices.com ) has expanded to locations in Indianapolis; Columbus, Ohio; Wilmington, N.C.; Asheville, N.C.; Hilton Head, S.C.; Charleston, S.C.; Bellevue, Wash.; Nashville, Tenn.; Augusta, Ga., as well as corporate-operated offices in Atlanta, Charlotte, S.C. and Greenville, S.C. Projections call for the opening of 12 franchise locations in 2012 toward a goal of opening 200 locations during the next five years in high-profile, transient markets across the country.