December 2017 | Strategy
Nano Tools for Leaders® are fast, effective leadership tools that you can learn and start using in less than 15 minutes — with the potential to significantly impact your success as a leader and the engagement and productivity of the people you lead.
Contributors: Margaret H. Greenberg and Senia Maymin, PhD, executive coaches and authors of Profit from the Positive: Proven Leadership Strategies to Boost Productivity and Transform Your Business.
Improve your productivity by working less.
Working smarter, not harder, is not a new insight, but we’ve lost touch with the ability to put it into practice. In the mid-1920s, Henry Ford reduced his factories’ workweek from six days to five, and 48 hours to 40, after discovering that productivity returns steadily diminished after eight hours of work a day for five days a week. Almost a century later, a United Nations study reveals that 85.8 percent of American males and 66.5 percent of females work more than 40 hours per week. Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers, according to the International Labor Organization.
What are we getting for all of those hours? A study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that greater productivity isn’t a benefit. Greeks are some of the most hardworking in the OECD, working 2,000 hours a year on average. Germans work about 1,400 hours each year — but their productivity is about 70% higher. Instead of resulting in greater output, longer hours lead to stress, a significant cause of both physical and mental health issues.
Improving productivity, then, doesn’t mean putting in more time at work. This “productivity paradox” is countered by research that shows overwhelmingly that scheduling downtime actually makes you more productive. In addition to taking short breaks, there are three other steps you can take to increase productivity while working fewer hours.
Being more productive while working less is a mindset that can be learned. Specifically, you can:
Here are three ways companies are helping their employees to resolve the productivity paradox by making it easier for them to reap the benefits of downtime.
Nano Tools for Leaders® was conceived and developed by Deb Giffen, MCC, director of Custom Programs at Wharton Executive Education. Nano Tools for Leaders® is a collaboration between joint sponsors Wharton Executive Education and Wharton’s Center for Leadership and Change Management. This collaboration is led by Professors Michael Useem and John Paul MacDuffie.
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