Are we fooling ourselves by working long hours?

“By working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve hours a day.” – Robert Frost

Work-life balance has been disrupted lately due to the trending behavior of the employers asking its employees to stretch their day at office to a minimal of 8 hours and beyond 9.5 hours especially in Indian IT Services industries. Not only does it ruin the productivity, but also spoils the employees health and relationships.

The working hours become prominent when the organization is going through a tough turmoil and the management is under pressure to bring back the numbers on track. At the very crux, the individuals at the middle management and below have to wear and tear their health, slogging for extended hours. This in turn creates a productivity & creativity disaster. End of the day, the employees have to face unexpected body vital deviations leading to high blood pressure, anxiety, body aches, migraines and various other conditions at a very young age.

It has been proven time and again that increased work-hours is not equal to increased productivity. Despite this fact, why is there a confusion at the top management? Its quite evident that the operations & the relevant team does not do its due diligence to conduct a psychological analysis before imposing stretched working hours.

The IT Services industry is a brain-intensive Industry, where the employees have to glue their focus and attention span for improved efficiency in the tasks including the likes of software and hardware designs. At times, creativity is something of a lost word. In the book “Your Brain at Work” (David Rock), the author says that the average office worker is interrupted every three minutes, and recovering from this disconnect is expensive. In fact, it takes us an average of 23 minutes to fully return to a task after an interruption. Discoveries in neuroscience also confirms what we’ve always known: our brains aren’t wired to concentrate intensely for eight hours straight (and forget about 9 and half hours!). They get fatigued!

In an experiment conducted by the Swedish government (on nursing staffs), six-hour work day increased the productivity vs the 8-hour work day. This is true even for the IT Services industry. Americans work around 38.6 hours per week, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. And the Indian IT Services industry is heading towards 47.5 hours per week (apparently because there are no strict labor laws). Gosh!

Also contributing to this never-ending cycle of extended work: Employees are trading sleep for work.Sleep-deprivation is also a productivity killer.

The ground reality is that tasks, either mental or physical, results in fatigue that limits the cognitive and physical resources people have to put towards their work.

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