Why You Shouldn’t Kill Yourself Working Long Hours

Indi Samarajiva

Inc.com recently ran a piece reacting to a lengthier Salon piece on the topic of the 40-hour work week, and why exceeding it is detrimental to your health and also quickly reaches a point of diminishing returns in terms of output.

I know firsthand from my day-to-day and also just talking shop with friends and colleagues who also are self-employed that there's an unspoken competition: Whoever works the longest hours and isn't a complete grump to deal with wins.

I see my friends tweeting over the weekend, "complaining" that they're working on a Saturday afternoon, but I know no one has really forced them to do that. And if they really wanted to just get the work done, they'd get it done, not whine about it on Twitter. They want people to see how important they are. But really, they're just shortchanging their own balance and ability to be fresh and ready when they need to be on the clock.

According to studies cited in both these pieces, though, working nonstop most of the time will make you just unproductive and tired. According to the Slate piece:  sometimes a little bit of crunch time is good for you… within reason:

"Research by the Business Roundtable in the 1980s found that you could get short-term gains by going to 60- or 70-hour weeks very briefly — for example, pushing extra hard for a few weeks to meet a critical production deadline… [but] increasing a team’s hours in the office by 50 percent (from 40 to 60 hours) does not result in 50 percent more output... In fact, the numbers may typically be something closer to 25-30 percent more work in 50 percent more time."

So, maybe it's time to change your mind a bit and scrap the notion that whoever's the busiest is the most important. And really, when you're on your death bed, are you really that much more likely to recount to your family: "Boy, I sure am glad I worked all those weekends?"

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a columnist for EGM. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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