Chris Yeh's post on Startups | Latest updates on Sulia
Working long hours is wildly overrated (while focus is underrated):
For my entire career, working long hours has been in fashion.
When I first started working in the 1990s, I was amazed to find that my workplace provided just about everything a young man could want--food, drink, high-speed internet access. I even lived just 2 blocks from the office. It was a rare week when I spent less than 55 hours in the office.
My work schedule got even more intense when I became an entrepreneur. One of the saving graces of my early career is that laptops cost about as much as small cars; as a result, I didn't work outside the office (upon reflection, a remarkable luxury). By the time I started my first company in 1999, I was using my laptop to work nights and weekends, as well as at the office. I was the archetypal hard-working entrepreneur. I even turned down an invitation to the Google launch party, figuring that it was a waste of time, since they'd surely be out of business in 6 months.
As it turns out, however, I was wrong. (I was wrong about Google too, as it turned out) Working incredibly long hours wasn't helpful. The strange thing is that this is lesson that we've forgotten, and now have to remember.
In her recent article, "Bring back the 40-hour work week," Sara Robinson provides a history of working hours in America:
"For most of the 20th century, the broad consensus among American business leaders was that working people more than 40 hours a week was stupid, wasteful, dangerous and expensive — and the most telling sign of dangerously incompetent management to boot.
What studies showed, over and over, was that industrial workers have eight good, reliable hours a day in them. On average, you get no more widgets out of a 10-hour day than you do out of an eight-hour day. Likewise, the overall output for the work week will be exactly the same at the end of six days as it would be after five days."
But simply cutting back hours isn't enough. Part of the reason long hours fail is that by cutting leisure in favor of work, we end up cutting work in favor of leisure. The average Facebook user spends 15 hours per week on the site. I'm guessing that a lot of young professionals spend more than that. And I doubt they're doing it all outside the office.
Here's the deal employers should offer: Work 40 hours per week. But in exchange for having time to have a life, stay focused and productive at the office. Any takers?