LinkedIn Top Stories: 40 Hours or Bust -- Why We Need To Return To Workweek Sanity

March 30, 2012

Today, I was going to create a venn diagram comparing the Five Personalities of Innovators and the Six Habits of True Strategic Thinkers in order to find the Three Habits You Need To Become a Strategic Innovator. Would have made a great blog post. But then I realized that I had worked well beyond 40 hours this week and as the second most-shared story of the week points out the chances of the output being any good were dangerously low. This is something managers of the Mad Men era once knew, but the link between long-hours and lost-productivity has been lost in the information age. First, the list:

Top 5 most-shared articles by LinkedIn members (March 21, 2012 — March 28, 2012) Follow @LinkedInToday

  1. The Five Personalities of Innovators: Which One Are You? (Forbes)
  2. Why Working More Than 40 Hours a Week is Useless (Inc.)
  3. The Future of Mobile (BusinessInsider)
  4. 6 Habits of True Strategic Thinkers (Inc.)
  5. Managers Need to Up Their Game with Social Media (HBR)

For the full Top 10 list, visit LinkedIn Today

Inc.'s brief look at the 40-hour workweek — based largely on a Salon story — reveals a couple of interesting facts: One, that in the 1960s, even the Chamber of Commerce was a fan of 40-hour weeks and, two, that a raft of studies done at the time proved that companies got no additional output from a 10-hour day than an 8-hour day. Writes the author of the original piece:

By the eighth hour of the day, people's best work is usually already behind them (typically turned in between hours 2 and 6). In Hour 9, as fatigue sets in, they're only going to deliver a fraction of their usual capacity.

In the decades following the Great Depression, researchers had studied what contributed to great work, and when that work fell off. All of the research showed that there was a benefit to closing the factory doors or bringing in new shifts. With the New Deal, the U.S. made a 40-hour week a national standard. But, of course, the meaning of work changed with the tech revolution. Suddenly there were fewer workers at lathes and more coding, constructing PowerPoints, or filling out tax forms. Did the hourly findings hold for them, too? Salon says, yes:

Research shows that knowledge workers actually have fewer good hours in a day than manual laborers do, on average, about six hours, as opposed to eight. You can stay longer if your boss asks; but after six hours, all he's really got left is a butt in a chair. Your brain has already clocked out and gone home.

One thing the article gets wrong, however, is the idea that there's such a thing as keeping a butt in a chair. As Henry Blodget points out in his highly shared presentation, The Future of Mobile, the chance of any of us disconnecting from the office even when we're not in the office are getting lower and lower. The global smartphone conversion — the U.S. is about halfway through it, while the rest of the world is a bit behind — means no one is ever truly disconnected. And that makes keeping to even 10 hours more difficult. Might be interesting, actually, to diagram out the growth in hours worked vs. the growth in smartphones. But that's just going to have to wait for next week.

Here are the most-shared stories by professionals in the following industries: