How to be productive by doing more and working less

In the United States we think about the typical work week as being 40 hours long, but Americans are actually working 47 hours a week on average. Worse than that, 4 out of every 10 Americans say they work more than 50 hours a week, and 2 out of 10 Americans say they work more than 60 hours a week.

Even if we only spend 40 hours a week in the office, mobile devices and employer provided laptops mean we’re often logging on to do more work once we arrive at home. When our phones buzz with the sound of a new email, it’s hard for us to resist checking our inbox and then shooting off a reply no matter what time it is.

According to the Harvard Business Review we often feel the need to respond to work related communications after hours due to ambition, pride and proving that we’re valuable to our companies.

Is all of this after-hours work really helping to improve the bottom line at our companies though? Does it make us more valuable to our employers, or does it simply make us more tired?

The research says it just makes us more tired.

Companies like KPMG, Basecamp and almost every organization in Sweden (including Toyota) are making moves to reduce employee work hours. Yes you read that right!

Why? Let’s dive into the reasons companies are telling employees to work less!

1. Working Too Much Leads to Health Issues

The biggest concern that comes along with working long hours is a decrease in physical health.

Marianna Virtanen, a researcher at the Finnish Institute of Occupational health, found that there are clear associations between being overworked and dealing with impaired sleep and depressive symptoms. Similar studies show a correlation between overworking and Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

When we’re overworked we’re more likely to sleep less, eat worse and skip exercise leading to a whole host of health issues. These issues directly and negatively affect employers because they lead to absenteeism (taking sick days), high turnover rate (quitting) and rising health insurance costs.

Essentially, in the long run employers get more out of their staff if they let them work 6 hours instead of 8 because they’ll then employees take less full days off due to feeling ill.

2. Working Longer Hours Doesn’t Result in Increased Efficiency

The Parkinson’s Law states that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” That means if you give yourself a 8 hours to complete a 2 hour task you’ll end up taking all 8 hours to finish the work.

Does filling 8 hours with 2 hours worth of work make employees more productive? Definitely not. It just means we’re being less efficient.

On the flip side, “If you are empowered to hunker down and work for six hours and then leave, and this is supported by your employer, inevitably you will maximize the time you have available so that you can leave and get on with different activities in your life.”

By having more time to spend doing activities outside of work that you enjoy, your quality of life improves and you’re more excited to do well at work because you’re happier and well rested. In fact, a study out of the University of Warwick confirmed that “happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity, while unhappy workers provided 10% less productive.”

Working less hours really does lead to more productivity!

3. Working to the Point of Exhaustion Leads to Errors

Research has shown that working when we’re overtired leads to errors. From a management and leadership perspective, working when we’re feeling exhausted leads to misreading physical cues such as facial expressions and body movements. It also leads to a mismanagement of our own emotional reactions, perhaps leading to unprofessional outbursts.

Beyond that, research shows that only 1-3% of the population can survive on five to six hours of sleep per night. Being tired also makes us much more prone to making errors. These errors can definitely impact the bottom line for our companies and also land us in hot water depending on how big the error is.

This concept of overwork leading to costly errors dates back to the 19th century. Factory owners learned to limit workdays to 8 hours so that they could reduce expensive mistakes and accidents that frequently occurred when employees were made to work 9, 10 or even more hours per day.

According to an article in Salon, “In 1914, emboldened by a dozen years of in-house research, Henry Ford famously took the radical step of doubling his workers’ pay, and cut shifts in Ford plants from nine hours to eight.”

Ford was initially bitterly criticized for this move, but over the next five years his competitors adopted the same model after seeing his production soar. It was at this time that many companies saw “if you wanted to keep your workers bright, healthy, productive, safe and efficient over a sustained stretch of time, you kept them to no more than 40 hours a week and eight hours a day.”

By reducing hours companies saw a decrease in worker disability, less damaged equipment, reduced lawsuits and happier shareholders.

A century later and all of the lessons from the 1914s seem to have been forgotten, but companies and employees would do well to learn from the past.

The Bottom Line

Employees become less efficient when they feel overworked. Stress and exhaustion lead to medical concerns, decreased efficiency and costly errors.

The secret to happy, productive and efficient employees? Less work hours!

How to be productive by doing more and working less

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Everyone wants to get more done in less time, but becoming more productive can be a long and difficult process. Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Imagine how much more you could get done if you could actually be productive the entire time you are at work. This infographic can help.

Perhaps the most important thing mentioned here though is the fact that it’s OK to make mistakes and skip days when you’re trying to create a good daily habit. It’s all too easy to say, “oh well, I missed it, I guess I can’t stick with this,” but if you keep trying to develop a good habit, you will get there. Once you really establish a good habit, you’ll be amazed how much it seems like second nature to you and how you ever managed to get through life without such a great habit.

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How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

Last Updated on March 23, 2021

How to be productive by doing more and working less

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One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

How to be productive by doing more and working less

Imagine how much more you could get done if you could become more productive by doing less. If you’ve ever heard me speak, you know I’m never introduced as a ‘digital marketing expert’. Frankly, I don’t believe one even exists.

Even though I don’t claim to be an expert, I certainly strive to master all aspects of digital marketing.

And that’s what’s stressful.

My thirst for knowledge leads me to say ‘yes’ to every opportunity that presents itself. I also try to read every email, white paper, and blog post I find interesting.

To me, being productive means juggling everything that comes across my desk. And when I successfully complete these tasks, I still do an assessment to see how I can increase productivity.

This is a serious problem people. I don’t want to suffer from dreaded “paralysis by analysis” habit.

And I’ll be the first to admit. Something must change. So, I decided to flip this process on its head and attempt to become more productive by doing less.

Here’s where I started…

Eliminate Distractions

Eliminating distractions was the first tactic I attempted to increase my productivity. I know this is easier said than done–especially when working in digital marketing. Checking emails, social media messages, and website analytics every 15 minutes has become an unavoidable daily habit.

And then there’s my Internet vice…

I tend to find some videos amusing and frequently get distracted by them. Case-in-point:

You just were distracted, weren’t you?

Now get focused and check out these interesting multitasking statistics…

How to be productive by doing more and working less

If you still need help eliminating distractions, you may want to try one of these apps: AntiSocial, Freedom, or Cold Turkey.

Work Smarter Not Harder

As often as possible, I attempt to convey the value of working smarter and not harder to my team. I try to optimize our production and workflow by finding the quickest way to reach the best result. As I continue to build my platform, I attempt to apply that same notion with my personal and professional activities.

What’s working smarter look like to me?

Well, I’ll start by saying that working smarter almost always starts with a strategy. A major pet peeve for me is redoing something that should have been done right in the first place.

When working with businesses, I make sure I’m 100% comfortable with the strategy before I begin. It’s as important as my brand.

What’s working harder?

Anytime I discover an easier, more efficient way to complete a task. Everything I did up to that point I consider ‘hard work’ because it shouldn’t have been done that way in the first place.

Yes, I can be hard on myself sometimes. But hey, when the buck stops at you, you can only assess yourself.

Just Say No

Another way to become more productive by doing less is to say no.

How to be productive by doing more and working less

If you’ve established yourself in your profession, you understand that saying yes to everyone and everything doesn’t fare well.

Bottom line: you can’t make everyone happy.

You can’t leverage every potential opportunity that presents itself. I found this out the hard way.

Naturally, the more tasks and responsibilities you have, the greater the likelihood that there will be a misstep from an unassociated task.

Learning this made me say no to many tasks and opportunities. So, if it wasn’t on my schedule, I just didn’t do it.

Pretty simple huh?

Although simplistic in nature, it does wonders for my productivity!

Narrow Your Focus

How to be productive by doing more and working less

You can’t be all things to all people.

Most importantly, you should no longer be that ‘one-stop-shop solution’ that provides everything to every customer.

With the proliferation of digital media, there are more niche markets emerging and even more influencers and specialist vying for your customer’s attention.

If you continue to provide all the services your customers will ever need, you will find it difficult to provide those customers with true value as they will never be completely satisfied.

Narrowing your focus down to one thing (or a few things) will help you become more productive.

And when you become more productive by doing less, you’ll better serve your customers.

How do you become more productive by doing less? Do you agree that doing less is an asset?

Juntae DeLane

Juntae is a sought-after digital strategist who specializes in helping businesses build brands online. He is the Chief Strategist of Digital Delane, founder of the Digital Branding Institute, and Sr. Digital Brand Manager for the University of Southern California. Juntae has worked with many brands across various industries such as Coca-Cola, Sony, Verizon, NBCUniversal, Paramount Pictures and many others. He is noted as a Top Social Media Influencer in several publications and has spoken around the country teaching businesses how to build powerful digital brands. If not on stage, you can catch him at the gym, flying private planes, or scuba diving off the coast.

How to be productive by doing more and working less

So you want to be more productive and work fewer hours. That’s awesome! Let’s figure out how to do this. I’m going to share six tips on how to be more productive and allow you to work less.

Make a list of the top 10 most impactful things you do in a week to increase revenue

Tip number one, make a list of the top 10 most impactful things you do in a week. To increase revenue whether you own your business, a regular frontline worker, or you’re a mid-level manager what are the top 10 most impactful things you do in a week? Another way to think through this is if I were to work half as much time, what would be the essential things that I would do? If you just do those things and drop the ball on the other ones, that’s a great way to outsource. So, think about the 10 most impactful things you do in a week. Evaluating your responsibilities can help you focus your energy, allowing you to work less.

Do the math on your hourly

Number two, do the math on your hourly. If you go out and acquire new clients, if you do a podcast, or you in some way boost revenue, what’s that hour worth. Is it worth a thousand dollars, worth a hundred dollars or is it worth fifty dollars? If you know the math on your hourly, it’s a lot easier to make the case to yourself or to your boss that you should outsource more. And, this can help build your case to work less.

Outsource to Virtual Assistants

Third, outsource to virtual assistants at a lower rate. If you know that your hourly is worth 200 an hour, then it’s a no-brainer to hire someone else at 15 bucks an hour. To be able to do the work you want to value that person and build their skillset and help them level up within the company too. But you want to make sure you’re outsourcing the work that you really shouldn’t be doing.

Set clear end times for your day and week to allow your brain to slow down

Number four, set clear end times for your day and week to allow your brain to slow down. A lot of people want to be more productive, but they don’t really start working less. They check email at night. They’re texting back clients throughout the weekend. They never actually give their brain a chance to slow down. When you allow your brain to slow down. research shows that you’re more creative. You’re more innovative and you’re actually better at the work you do. You get more done in fewer hours. You’re able to actually get the things done that you didn’t think you could get done in a shorter period of time. So, set some boundaries. If your goal is to have 4 day work weeks, decide when work ends and stick to it. In addition, cut out when your 3 day weekend starts and decide what that will look like.

Build more hobbies, socialization, and interests so that work isn’t the only thing you know how to do

Number five, build more hobbies, socialization, and interests so that work isn’t the only thing you know how to do. A lot of people undervalue hobbies, socialization, and doing things that are just plain fun. If you have things in your schedule that you can look forward to, you’ll be less likely to jump back into work. If you really want to work less you have to optimize your brain. To optimize your brain, you can’t be working. You can’t be thinking about work. You can’t even be texting or checking emails on the weekend or evenings. You genuinely have to step back. You have to pause and allow your brain to rejuvenate. That way when you go back to work you can sprint and get so much more done in a shorter period of time. Remember those 3 day weekends and 4 day work weeks I mentioned? That’s a good place to start. Fill those three days with activities you love. So, you’ll increase your work productivity during you 4 day work week.

Do short run experiments where you work 10 hours less in a week for a month and see if you see a dip in $

Number six, do a short run experiment where you work. Ten hours less in a week for maybe a month and see if you see a dip in the revenue. Instead of doing 40 hours do 30. Start taking Fridays off and a have 4 day work week, or maybe leave early on Monday and Thursday afternoon. In some way work fewer hours and do it as an experiment. Then have KPI’s, key performance indicators, that you look at to decide if this is something you want to do long term.

So that is how to be more productive and to work fewer hours for more resources like this head on over to practiceofthepractice.com where we have tons of small business resources to help you optimize your brain and grow your business.

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC

How to be productive by doing more and working lessJoe Sanok is an ambitious results expert. He is a private practice business consultant and counselor that helps small businesses and counselors in private practice to increase revenue and have more fun! He helps owners with website design, vision, growth, and using their time to create income through being a private practice consultant. Joe was frustrated with his lack of business and marketing skills when he left graduate school. He loved helping people through counseling but felt that often people couldn’t find him. Over the past few years, he has grown his skills, income, and ability to lead others, while still maintaining an active private practice in Traverse City, MI. To link to Joe’s Google+

“As you grow in this business you learn to do more with less.” Actor Morgan Freeman may have been talking about his profession when he said that, but his point could be equally applied to business. Many organizations gained valuable lessons from the recent banking crisis when sales declined and they were compelled to operate with fewer resources, both capital, and human. Some adapted and thrived, but others floundered. However, for some businesses, competition is ongoing and relentless, forcing them to meet challenges head on. Think of this as an ideal way to be creative in your thinking and innovative in your approach. So, what measures can you take if you have to get more done with less? Here are some ways of mastering your resources:

Prioritize Your Tasks and Reap the Benefits

It sounds obvious and yet a kind of paralysis can set in when an organization finds itself having to cope with less.

Decide what needs your attention urgently and act accordingly.

Be decisive and realistic. Will that project you just selected really deliver the result you need?

You may need to eliminate some current projects that are costly and in your new circumstances unnecessary. Doing so will free up resources to fund other more productive ventures.

Task management template

No matter what you’re working on, keep your tasks moving and get more done with our task management template in Teamwork.

Effective Planning is a Winning Strategy

With resources more stretched, and possibly fewer staff you need to think outside the box. Effective planning is key to managing slimmer resources.

Decide what needs to be done first and ensure everyone is onboard.

Draw up a timeline for action.

Be proactive rather than reactive and don’t allow slippage.

Ensure all members of your team know their roles and the necessity of delivering on time and budget. You are the team leader, after all.

Keep Your Lines of Communication Open

You may have clear goals, but do you have a good communication strategy within your company to bring people along with you? Can you inspire people to work harder? Here are some tips:

Ensure everyone knows what is expected of them.

Be clear about your objectives.

Be open to other views and you’ll keep your team onboard.

How to be productive by doing more and working less

How often should you really communicate with your team?

Staying connected is one of the most important requirements for happy teams and productive teamwork. Finding your sweet spot for interaction frequency might take a little bit of trial and error — especially now that our ways have working have changed, and your ideal interaction rhythms might have changed with it — but if you devote the time to getting it right, it’ll pay off: with happier, more productive, more cohesive teams.

Yes, You Can Say ‘No’

You may have been less cognizant of this in the past, but now you really need to focus more clearly and be proactive on how you expend your energy. That means knowing when to call a halt to the talking and make decisions.

Focus on the now. Manage your day properly with clear objectives and specific time targets.

Meetings can run on too long, so set your agenda and don’t lose control of it or the clock.

Do it today. Deferring action means an even more congested timetable tomorrow or the next day. It is time you can ill afford.

Watch Your Costs or You’ll Pay the Price

It hardly needs repeating, but, with a tighter budget, every cent counts. Loose controls will cost you money that could be spent on other projects.

Do you really need to invest in technology upgrades this year?

Is it smart to cut your marketing budget if you want to drive sales?

Would a more focused social media strategy be a better investment?

Should you cut the training budget, or revamp it to focus on upskilling staff for new opportunities?

Utilize Your Resources and Bin Waste

Resources are finite, and you have to think smarter with less. There is no room for wastage, so ask yourself how you can best use what you have to maximum effect.

Operational needs may mean reassigning staff to other areas. For example, you may have too many in administration and not enough in sales.

Focus on what costs can be eliminated or reduced without hurting your business.

Examine all areas of spending and see how the savings can be reinvested to maximum effect.

How to be productive by doing more and working less

The ultimate guide to resource management

Having a plan to allocate, manage, and forecast what your people will be working on not only means you can make sure you have enough people for every project in your pipeline—but also those that are working won’t get burned out.

Takeaway Yours is not the first organization asked to cope with less. From the banking sector to the automobile industry, companies have shed tens of thousands of workers and survived with leaner operations. With a positive attitude, more efficient use of money and people, and clear communication, you can deliver more for less. For the latest posts on collaboration, teamwork, and productivity, subscribe to the Teamwork.com High Performance Blog.

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by Sierra Powell 3 min read April 13, 2021

How to be productive by doing more and working less

The problem that sometimes arises in businesses is that their employees become less productive over time. You’ll need to take action if you notice that unproductiveness is a trend in your establishment. These are some tips you can use to achieve that effectively.

Have Contests

One easy way to make your workers more productive is to have contests for them every month. Contests will give them the feeling that they are going to win something. Make the prize worthwhile so that they will be motivated to perform or compete. Monetary prizes are always good motivators. Alternatively, you could promise prizes such as a tablet, smartphone, or appliance that can improve their life quality in some way. You will see your least productive employees start to boost their sales numbers and activities if you do this.

Conduct One-On-One Meetings

Sometimes workers are less productive because they have no idea that they aren’t being productive. That’s why it’s important to keep a system of metrics going and explain to your workers what those numbers mean. The best way to do that is to give each of your workers a one-on-one meeting so that you can explain what’s expected of them in terms of performance. You can also keep a system in place that alerts you when your workers’ performance declines. You can then meet with the workers individually and discuss strategies to improve it.

Hold Group Meetings

You should hold group meetings at least once a month so that all your workers can gather in one spot. Discuss the sales numbers and specify the goals so that your workers know exactly what they need to fight for. You should also discuss customer service because customer service is what makes customers want to deal with your organization. Make sure your workers know what they need to do to boost customer service quality to a five-star level. Talk to them, but also allow them to participate in the meetings by voicing their opinions. You’ll be glad you took the time to allow them to speak and listen to them.

Get Your Employees Coaching

Your facility may need to have a professional agile coaching expert come in to help your leaders and supervisors to handle the employees more effectively. These professionals can brainstorm with you and your team of managers to find effective motivational and inspirational tactics. Your employees and team could heavily benefit from an agile coach workshop or other training classes to improve everyone’s performance and productivity.

Reward and Thank Your Workers

Always take the time to thank your workers for everything they do. Thank them for coming in every day. Thank them for choosing your business to work for. Most of all, thank them for their hard work in achieving goals that are not necessarily easy. They will appreciate you for thanking them, and they will increase their efforts. Also, invest a little money into rewarding your best-performing workers. You can give them literal award certificates at an annual meeting as a way to immortalize their success. Workers love to receive recognition, so give it a try some time.

Promote Successful Individuals

You may not have thought of this, but your promotional choices can make a difference to your workers. If they see you promote unfruitful workers or people who do not follow the rules, then they are going to assume that you don’t care about effort. Over time, your employees will become less productive because they’ll believe that the less productive workers always prevail. Do yourself a favor and make smart decisions when you issue promotions. Promote the workers who come to work on time every day, meet and exceed sales goals, please customers, and get along well with their coworkers. Let your employees see that you promote people who work hard, and their attitude toward performing and producing well will be much better.

Start Boosting Productivity Today

Now you know some of the tips and tricks for boosting productivity within your business. Try some of the methods mentioned above, and they will help your employees to find motivation. Give them time to get motivated and have faith that your establishment will prevail.

How to be productive by doing more and working less

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.

In the United States we think about the typical work week as being 40 hours long, but Americans are actually working 47 hours a week on average. Worse than that, 4 out of every 10 Americans say they work more than 50 hours a week, and 2 out of 10 Americans say they work more than 60 hours a week.

Even if we only spend 40 hours a week in the office, mobile devices and employer provided laptops mean we’re often logging on to do more work once we arrive at home. When our phones buzz with the sound of a new email, it’s hard for us to resist checking our inbox and then shooting off a reply no matter what time it is.

According to the Harvard Business Review we often feel the need to respond to work related communications after hours due to ambition, pride and proving that we’re valuable to our companies.

Is all of this after-hours work really helping to improve the bottom line at our companies though? Does it make us more valuable to our employers, or does it simply make us more tired?

The research says it just makes us more tired.

Companies like KPMG, Basecamp and almost every organization in Sweden (including Toyota) are making moves to reduce employee work hours. Yes you read that right!

Why? Let’s dive into the reasons companies are telling employees to work less!

1. Working Too Much Leads to Health Issues

The biggest concern that comes along with working long hours is a decrease in physical health.

Marianna Virtanen, a researcher at the Finnish Institute of Occupational health, found that there are clear associations between being overworked and dealing with impaired sleep and depressive symptoms. Similar studies show a correlation between overworking and Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

When we’re overworked we’re more likely to sleep less, eat worse and skip exercise leading to a whole host of health issues. These issues directly and negatively affect employers because they lead to absenteeism (taking sick days), high turnover rate (quitting) and rising health insurance costs.

Essentially, in the long run employers get more out of their staff if they let them work 6 hours instead of 8 because they’ll then employees take less full days off due to feeling ill.

2. Working Longer Hours Doesn’t Result in Increased Efficiency

The Parkinson’s Law states that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” That means if you give yourself a 8 hours to complete a 2 hour task you’ll end up taking all 8 hours to finish the work.

Does filling 8 hours with 2 hours worth of work make employees more productive? Definitely not. It just means we’re being less efficient.

On the flip side, “If you are empowered to hunker down and work for six hours and then leave, and this is supported by your employer, inevitably you will maximize the time you have available so that you can leave and get on with different activities in your life.”

By having more time to spend doing activities outside of work that you enjoy, your quality of life improves and you’re more excited to do well at work because you’re happier and well rested. In fact, a study out of the University of Warwick confirmed that “happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity, while unhappy workers provided 10% less productive.”

Working less hours really does lead to more productivity!

3. Working to the Point of Exhaustion Leads to Errors

Research has shown that working when we’re overtired leads to errors. From a management and leadership perspective, working when we’re feeling exhausted leads to misreading physical cues such as facial expressions and body movements. It also leads to a mismanagement of our own emotional reactions, perhaps leading to unprofessional outbursts.

Beyond that, research shows that only 1-3% of the population can survive on five to six hours of sleep per night. Being tired also makes us much more prone to making errors. These errors can definitely impact the bottom line for our companies and also land us in hot water depending on how big the error is.

This concept of overwork leading to costly errors dates back to the 19th century. Factory owners learned to limit workdays to 8 hours so that they could reduce expensive mistakes and accidents that frequently occurred when employees were made to work 9, 10 or even more hours per day.

According to an article in Salon, “In 1914, emboldened by a dozen years of in-house research, Henry Ford famously took the radical step of doubling his workers’ pay, and cut shifts in Ford plants from nine hours to eight.”

Ford was initially bitterly criticized for this move, but over the next five years his competitors adopted the same model after seeing his production soar. It was at this time that many companies saw “if you wanted to keep your workers bright, healthy, productive, safe and efficient over a sustained stretch of time, you kept them to no more than 40 hours a week and eight hours a day.”

By reducing hours companies saw a decrease in worker disability, less damaged equipment, reduced lawsuits and happier shareholders.

A century later and all of the lessons from the 1914s seem to have been forgotten, but companies and employees would do well to learn from the past.

The Bottom Line

Employees become less efficient when they feel overworked. Stress and exhaustion lead to medical concerns, decreased efficiency and costly errors.

The secret to happy, productive and efficient employees? Less work hours!

By Dan Harris September 13, 2017 September 12, 2017

How to be productive by doing more and working less

“They work hard and aren’t afraid to put in extra hours, blood, sweat, and tears to accomplish their goals.”

This is how many company leaders would describe their top employees. However, these extra, hard-worked hours actually become overwhelming and are a waste of time.

According to “The Productivity of Working Hours” an October 2014 study by John Pencavel in The Economic Journal, employees working 70 hours weren’t more productive than those working 56 hours.

In many cases, putting in more hours doesn’t mean added productivity. In fact, working more hours increases the likelihood of burnout, higher levels of stress, and even cardiovascular disease, according to an October 2015 study in The Lancet.

Even your most dedicated and motivated employees are at risk of becoming overworked, disengaged, and unable to produce quality work. Here’s how you can get your team to work less and be more productive:

1. Encourage more time off

Offering time off as part of your benefits and perks plan isn’t enough anymore.

Your employees are working hard to prove they’re not just capable of doing their jobs, but are the best person to handle every challenge their positions throw at them. If they don’t feel adequately supported by management, they’ll believe taking time off makes them seem weak or incapable.

In fact, ProjectTimeOff’s February 2016 report, “The High Price of Silence,” of 5,641 American workers, found only 39% of non-managers feel supported in taking time off. However, 84% of managers agree that when employees take time off they return to work with improved focus and creativity.

This disconnect is causing employees to leave vacation days unused and jam as many hours as possible into the work week. Employers are aware employees need to work less hours in order to feel refreshed and renewed. However, the growing fear of taking time off will continue feeding this harmful pattern, unless leadership creates an atmosphere where taking time off is expected and encouraged.

Calm your team’s fears by adding benefits and systems that will make taking time off easier. Start by offering an ample amount of paid time off. Many employees can’t afford to take time off if they’re not compensated. By offering PTO you’re letting them know you view their time away from the office being just as valuable as their time in the office.

Now it’s time to calm another fear: the entire business will, in fact, not fall apart or be sent up in flames while they’re away.

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Set up a buddy system for employees. This provides them with someone they can trust who is equipped and accountable for their tasks while they’re off enjoying some good rest and relaxation. When employees’ minds are at ease knowing their jobs are being taken care of, they’ll be able to relax and then come back ready to tackle new projects.

2. Offer goals with realistic timelines

Feeling overwhelmed or rushed to hit goals can make anyone go off the deep end. Goals with unrealistic timelines send employees’ minds into a frantic state, which leaves them working more hours, but not producing more.

Help employees work smarter, not harder, by setting goals with specific and realistic timelines. As they hit each step and check off goals, they’ll feel accomplished and ready to move forward.

However, it’s important to encourage your team to fight their natural instincts to prematurely move onto their next task. Let them know you don’t expect them to work ahead unless new goals and timelines have been set. Instead, this extra time should be used to regroup, get to know their co-workers, take an extended lunch, or even give themselves the afternoon off.

3. Make your expectations known

Putting productivity and time-off policies in place, then expecting employees to simply change overnight, will not solve the problem. In order to create a productive team that isn’t bogged down from working too many hours, leaders need to take a fully transparent approach to their expectations about hours worked.

If you’re lucky, most of your employees have a natural desire to overachieve and work hard for your company. Unfortunately, if employees believe your expectations are for them to continue working extra hours, they’ll continue striving to impress you and eventually won’t have anything left to give.

Sit down in a one-on-one setting to help employees prioritize tasks, be more efficient, and focus on time management. Make a clear list of goals and realistic timelines together. Add downtime to these timelines to reiterate your support and belief in working less to gain productivity. Further your point by creating a designated area where employees can decompress once goals are completed.

Dan Harris

Dan Harris, is Workplace Insights Analyst at Quantum Workplace, a company dedicated to providing every organization with quality engagement tools that guide their next step in making work better every day.

Taking more breaks can help you get more done in a day, if you take them right.

How to be productive by doing more and working less

Ask someone how they’re doing, and they’ll probably answer, “I’m so busy!” Whether it’s a project for work or FOMO with your friends, you never want to feel like you have to say “no” to something. We regard the need for rest as a sign of weakness, and our perpetually stimulated brains have a hard time downshifting and doing nothing.

But in my book Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, I argue that this attitude is unhealthy, counterproductive, and short-sighted. Rest is essential for restoring the mental and physical energy we spend at work. Here’s how you can become more productive while simultaneously taking more breaks.

1. Start early — really early. Getting up very early and working at home lets you make progress on your most critical projects, work without the distractions of social media or the phone, and creates space in your day for rest. Toni Morrison, for example, wrote her novels in the pre-dawn hours before going to her job as an editor. For many, a slightly drowsy state is also a more creative one.

2. Focus, rest, repeat. Great minds alternate hard work and rest in their day, moving with surprising speed from one mode to the other. By working intensively for an hour and a half to two hours, then taking a break for 20 minutes, you get the restorative benefits of a rest, while still keeping your intellectual momentum going.

3. Keep multitasking to a minimum. It feels like you get more done when you multitask, but in reality, you’re taking a double hit to your productivity. Multitasking prevents you from working productively on any single task and prevents you from focusing enough on a subject to get your creative subconscious involved. So close your email, put on headphones, and turn off Slack notifications. You’ll do more in two focused hours than six distracted ones.

How to be productive by doing more and working less

How to be productive by doing more and working less

4. Take a walk. A recent study found that even walking on a treadmill while facing a cinder block wall boosts creativity. Walking meetings let you combine work and a healthy break: People are more likely to focus and less likely to multitask, walking meetings tend to be shorter, and there are no doughnuts to tempt you (unless you walk past a bakery).

5. Or if you can, take a nap. Not every workplace is nap-friendly, but even a short nap in a wellness room can top up flagging energy, help your brain retain new information, and even boost your creativity. Avoid oversleeping, though: After 20 minutes, it’ll be hard to shake off the drowsiness and get back to work.

How to be productive by doing more and working less

How to be productive by doing more and working less

6. Stop in mid-thought. Many writers stop for the day in mid-sentence, which makes it easier to pick up again the next day. As scientists recently discovered, knowing that you’ll return to a problem encourages your subconscious to keep working on it — which raises the odds that you’ll find a solution in the morning.

7. Leave your work at work. When you leave the office or finish a task, put it out of your mind. Bringing home your problems guarantees that you won’t get the rest necessary to tackle them effectively. Put your phone on silent, don’t check email at home, and focus on other things.

How to be productive by doing more and working less

How to be productive by doing more and working less

8. Actually take your vacation days. Americans forgo tens of billions of dollars’ worth of vacation days every year. Not only is this like not cashing a paycheck, but people who don’t take vacations are at greater risk of chronic stress and burnout. Those who take them are happier at work, more resilient, and live longer. Shorter vacations every few months will provide a better recharge than one long vacation.

9. Find a really engaging hobby. The best minds have hobbies that let them enjoy some of the same satisfactions as their work, but at a small scale and without the frustrations. Winston Churchill loved painting because it required vision, decisiveness, and confidence, the same properties that made political life appealing, but it didn’t require dealing with the political opposition.

How to be productive by doing more and working less

10. Take rest. Don’t assume that the world will give it to you. Too often we tell ourselves we’ll rest when we’ve finished everything else. But in today’s 24/7 services-driven economy, you’re never done: Work follows us home, mobile devices make you always-accessible to bosses and clients, and projects can always be made a little better. The only rest you get is the rest you take from a world that will soak up all your time and attention if you let it.

Learn more about why taking breaks is so important in Alex’s new book Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, available now.