You're reading this during work hours, aren't you? It was either going to be this, staring at Facebook, or sneaking off for a quick game of Clash Of Clans while pretending to take your fifth bowel movement of the day. It's fine, we won't tell. We all do it. We all pretend we don't. Just like we pretend we don't know that spending eight hours staring at a screen or a machine or a teacher or your own boring babies isn't helping our productivity. Then again, you've always known the secret to getting a lot more work done: Just stop working.
With the advent of the World Cup, every company located somewhere without a good basketball team is again fearing that their productivity will drop through the floor. Fortunately, Clive Thompson over at Wired has come with a great reminder that working less is a great way to work better. Of course, this lazy pinko talk clearly goes against our modern (dystopian) view of the work ethic, one in which underpaying freelancing websites can put out ads telling us we should miss sleep and skip meals just to keep working. Yet studies have shown for years that people get surprisingly little done at work during the grind of an eight-hour workday. According to one 2015 survey, the participating office workers spent as little as two hours and 53 minutes each day actually being productive. The other five-ish hours? Chatting, coffee break, Facebook -- the unholy trinity of slacking off.
But surely, that's no reason to work even less? Imagine if great minds like Darwin or Dickens had cut down on their hours. We'd know nothing about Galapagos tortoises and still hate orphans. Except that slacking off is exactly what made those men so great at their job. According to Alex Pang, an author who studied the work routines of some of history's greatest figures, many of them only worked around four hours per day before calling it quits and going off to hunt bison or demean women or whatever people did in their off-time in the past.
Now, you might reason: "So if we're slacking off even more than Charles Darwin, how come we haven't cured all the cancers by now?" Well, all those old-timey brainiacs who only worked for about four hours engaged in what Pang calls "active rest" -- going out for hikes, developing hobbies, attending parties. You know, the kind of leisure activities that, according to sleep researcher Sara Mednick, "improve alertness, help consolidate information you learned earlier, and help with emotional regulation." The kind you can't do while killing time at work or zoning out in front of Netflix after a long day at the office. So the problem isn't that slacking off keeps us from working productively, but that work keeps us from slacking off productively.
And the research seems to keep backing up the success stories of shorter work weeks. When Sweden trialed a six-hour workday for assistant nurses in care homes, their productivity and engagement improved and sick days dropped by 10 percent. Even all the way back in 1951, the Illinois Institute of Technology figured out that their most productive scientists were the ones who only worked 10-20 hours per week. And that's not even talking about the massive impact that having happy, fulfilled employees can have on their efficiency. Meanwhile, research has shown that undergoing more than 40 work hours per week increases your risk of narcotics dependency, weight gain, fatigue, injury, depression, and your kids hating you for missing all of their accordion recitals.
So let's just stop the lies, march over to our bosses, tell them we're only working half days anyway and so they should just let us leave at 2 to go frolic in a forest -- for productivity's sake. They'll understand, right? Right?
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