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Q: Employee productivity and hours worked per week ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Employee productivity and hours worked per week
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: flea-ga
List Price: $8.00
Posted: 13 Jun 2002 12:28 PDT
Expires: 20 Jun 2002 12:28 PDT
Question ID: 25337
I need info related to employee productivity as it correlates to the
amount of hours worked per week. At what point does employee
productivity decline? Charts or graphs would be nice but are not
necessary. What are the benefits or drawbacks of requiring a longer
than normal work week (50 hours/week)

I need to put together an arguement as to why a 50 hour work-week
should be reduced. The main argument for the 50 hour week is increased
productivity, however, my personal experience for the past three
months has been that a 10 hour workday decreases production, builds
resentment among employees, and lowers morale. Any facts to back up
these suspicions would be great. It might be helpful to play up the
fact that most of the positions required to work 50-hour weeks are
largely considered "creative" positions - (web designers, writers,

Also, I'm not interested in stats that involve the Standard European
work weeks, vacation time, etc.
Subject: Re: Employee productivity and hours worked per week
Answered By: rebeccam-ga on 13 Jun 2002 15:10 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Hi flea!

As a 50-hour-a-week worker, I am very interested in the answer to this

Let me begin with a few resources for information on non-traditional
scheduling programs:

From Montgomery Work-Life Alliance, based in Mongomery County, MD. The
site provides information on implementing "work/life" practices in
( )  Among the many
statistics you might find useful:

"Staff who believe work is causing problems in their personal lives
are more likely to make mistakes than those who have few job-related
personal problems (30% compared to 19%).

Childcare information and referral services save employees 15-17 hours
annually, resulting in more focused workers.

A majority of part-time professionals and their supervisors report
that this work arrangement either improved or did not affect the
employee's productivity; 46% agreed that individuals working part-time
realize productivity gains."

Here is their page on Flexible Work Schedules:
( )

Another site you might find helpful is Family First's page on Family
Friendly Workplace Policies. ( )
To quote from that site:

"In a recent survey of over 800 companies with a combined seven
million employees, the William Mercer Company, the noted personnel
corporation, found 86 percent of the surveyed companies agreed that
they cannot remain competitive in the 1990s without addressing family
issues with policies such as flex-time and parental leave...  A study
by Johnson & Johnson found that "absenteeism among employees who used
flexible time and family-leave policies was on average 50 percent less
than for the work force as a whole." And they found that 71 percent of
the employees who used the benefits rated them as "very important" in
their decision to stay at J&J."

I found a great wealth of information in the TDM Encyclopedia, which
describes itself as "the most comprehensive source of information
available on innovative solutions to transportation problems."  While
the focus is on transportation, the page called "Alternative Work
Schedules: Flextime, Compressed Work Week, Staggered Shifts" ( )is chock full of statistics,
suggestions, and links to more information.

Now for information pertaining specifically to shortened work weeks. 
I was unable to find charts or statistics detailing at what point
weekly productivity declines, but found a wealth of information
supporting shorter work weeks as related to both productivity and
overall employee and employer satisfaction:

First, an interesting page called "A short history of shorter work
How we can win the 6-hour day", from a speech given by Mark Piotrowski
in Gainesville for May Day 2000, at the local celebration of
International Workers Day
( ) It is
admittedly not unbiased, the author is a Labor Party member, and at
the end of the article outlines the party's platform as related to the
6-hour work day.  It does, however, contain lots of interesting
historical information on how  we got where we are, and what's pushing
us towards wherever we're going.

Now for the facts.  There's a great article by Robert Lajeunesse for
the Jan-Feb 1999 issue of Challenge Magazine, called "Toward an
efficiency week.(correlation between shorter workweek and higher

Lajeunesse cites numerous studies, although some date back quite a
ways.  Here's an excerpt:

"Scientific research on the physiology of labor initially took place
in the United Kingdom during World War I. Under the auspices of the
Industrial Fatigue Board, researchers investigated why the British
munitions industry failed to respond to an increased demand for output
despite unrestricted budgets that allowed for ample overtime
compensation. Through meticulous observations of munitions factories,
H.M. Vernon (1917) was able to show that increases in output were
ephemeral. Over longer periods, the level of output tended toward an
equilibrium. As Michael White (1987) states, "This equilibrium is
considerably influenced by the hours of work, by the physical effort
demanded in the work, and also the regularity of the work." In
general, a longer work duration tended to manifest itself in lower
long-run equilibrium levels of output. "

He also includes the following table (the closest thing I could find
to stats on weekly productivity rates):

Table 1

Productivity Decreases in the 1920s Cotton Industry (percent change
using 10 A.M. Tuesday morning as a base)

Workday             A.M. (8:15)           P.M. (10:15)

Monday                  1.6                   5.8
Tuesday                 0.9                   6.4
Wednesday               1.8                   6.4
Thursday                2.2                   6.7
Friday                  2.6                   7.5

It sounds, though, like you're not interested in stats on
manual/assembly line work, and stats from the 1920s might not carry
much weight, so here's some more current information...

From a McGill Management article entitled "Reduced Work Load Highly
Successful For Managers, Professionals, And Corporations", January 25,
1999, detailing a study by researchers Mary Dean Lee at McGill
University and Shelley MacDermid at Purdue University in Indiana:

"They interviewed managers and professionals were typically working 3
or 4 days a week, which translated to reducing on average their
50-hour work week to 32 hours. The participants worked in a wide
variety of business areas, and their reasons for reducing their work
load varied. About 90 percent were women; 37 were high-level
professionals without direct subordinates, and 50 were managers
supervising at least three workers.

Ninety-one percent of the participants were happier and more satisfied
with the balance between work and home as a result of working less.
Only 10 percent planned to return to full-time status within the next
three years...

Seventy percent of the employees' supervisors supported the
arrangements. For the most part, individual performance of employees
working reduced work load had been maintained or actually improved...

"The biggest surprise of all, however," says Lee, "was that some firms
clearly believed that it was in their best interest to accommodate
their valued employees. These firms were learning from their
experiments with customized work arrangements and expected to profit
from that learning in dealing with the workforce of the future."

(The full text of the study is available at )

Yet another great article... I found this one through,
it's called Productivity = Long hours?, from CIO (4/15/01) by David L.
Russell and John Fontana. ( )  The authors
strongly advocate the acceptance of a standard 32-hour work week, with
sections titled "The Myth of Productivity", "High Expectations", and
"A New Work Ethic."

And, last but not least, an article called "Balancing Work and
ZFamilies: It's Not just for Workers Anymore", by Deb Maes, Extension
Educator, Family Development for the University of New Hampshire
Cooperative Extension
( ) said "If your
employer hasn't yet implemented any of the ideas shared here, it
doesn't mean you can't achieve balance in your schedule. You can
campaign for more flexible work conditions using statistics from work
family reports. The Families and Work Institute completed a National
Study in 1997 that identified how work, family and personal life fit
together, incorporating outcomes important to all – productivity and

The study ( )is very
interesting, and well worth a thorough read.  (More information gather
by the group is available at their Work-Life Research page at )
The following paragraph is the best excerpt I found regarding your
specific interest:

"Of particular concern are the negative spillover effects that
demanding and hectic jobs can have on the quality of workers’ personal
lives and well-being. When job demands exceed some individually
defined level, it seems that not even the most supportive workplaces
can fully protect workers from negative job spillover into their
personal lives. This spillover is reflected in high stress, poor
coping, bad moods, and insufficient time and energy for people who are
personally important, creating “problems” that, in turn, spill over
into work and impair job performance. Therefore, actions by employers
to not only increase the supportiveness of workplaces, but urge and
help employees “get a life” off the job may be crucial to improving
employee productivity over the long run—not to mention the obvious
benefits to workers and their families."

I know I've dumped a lot on you, I hope it's all of use to you.  If
you'd like more targeted information of have questions (there is a lot
of information out there on this subject!) please don't hesitate to
request clarification.


I searched for:

"employee productivity" "work week"
( ://

"employee productivity" "work week" statistics OR study
( ://

"employee productivity" "shorter OR shortened work week" statistics OR
( ://

"50 OR fifty hour work week" (

work hours employee productivity morale (

shorter work hours employee productivity (

The Families and Work Institute national study (
flea-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
lots of info - not necessarily exactly what i was looking for, but it
will help. Thanks Rebecca

Subject: Re: Employee productivity and hours worked per week
From: gale-ga on 13 Jun 2002 21:27 PDT
Please check out (Creating Livable Alternatives
to Wage Slavery), it's a portal with a lot of useful links.

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