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Updated Jan 10, 2024

Working Overtime? Longer Hours Won’t Make You More Productive

Studies show a more positive work-life balance is better for productivity.

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Written By: Max FreedmanBusiness Operations Insider and Senior Analyst
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Working overtime or long hours does not necessarily equate to increased productivity, according to 2023 research from the business-to-business marketplace Expert Market.

Researchers came to their conclusions after examining the workforces of 40 countries worldwide. Specifically, they determined each country’s productivity level by dividing the annual gross domestic product (GDP) ― the value of all the goods and services produced within each country over a year ― by the average number of hours full-time and part-time employees worked over a year.

How working overtime affects ― and doesn’t affect ― productivity

Overall, the United States ranked 13th worldwide in productivity. Based on 1,810.9 total hours worked in 2022, American employees produced an average of $42.18 per person per hour.

But that’s not even half of what employees in Luxembourg churn out. Employees in the small European country, which borders France, Germany and Belgium, topped this year’s list, with employees working 1,473.3 total hours and producing $96.52 per person per hour.

According to the study, all 12 countries that ranked ahead of the U.S. have employees who work fewer hours annually than U.S. employees. For example, Germany has the fewest annual working hours at 1,340.9 yet still produces $47.09 per person per hour.

On the flip side, some of the countries with the most hours worked produced the least amount of money per person, per hour. 

What the experts say

Expert Market published a similar study in 2016. At that time, Michael Horrocks, former publishing manager at Expert Market, said the research proves that hours spent in the office do not necessarily equate to business success. Additionally, the U.S. culture of presenteeism and tendency toward “chaining” workers to their desks doesn’t benefit anyone, despite the allure of overtime pay for many workers. Working excessive hours can lead to devastating workplace stress and employee burnout.

“Hopefully, this means that the culture of presenteeism will be a thing of the past, and we will see a more flexible and balanced approach to work in the future,” Horrocks said in a statement. “Employees are clearly more beneficial to organizations when they are happier, so in this instance, what’s good for the individual is also what’s good for business.”

The most productive countries and their annual working hours

These were the top 10 countries in the 2023 study in terms of productivity:

Ranking

Country

Hours worked annually

Hourly productivity per person, per hour

1

Luxembourg

1,473.3

$96.52

2

Norway

1,424.6

$80.65

3

Ireland

1,657.5

$76.56

4

Singapore

2,293.2

$55.62

5

Switzerland

1,528.7

$54.68

6

Denmark

1,371.6

$53.95

7

The Netherlands

1,427

$48.75

8

Iceland

1,449.2

$47.66

9

Germany

1,340.9

$47.09

10

Austria

1,443.7

$47.05

The bottom 10 countries for productivity were Latvia, Portugal, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovak Republic, Croatia, Puerto Rico, Turkey and Bulgaria.

TipTip
If overtime is necessary at times in your business, carefully study federal overtime rules to ensure you comply and ensure your employees receive the proper overtime protections.

How to achieve a reasonable work-life balance

You and your employees can improve your work-life balance if you commit to the following steps.

  • Set your hours: Don’t work outside your set working hours unless necessary.
  • Prioritize: Prioritize your tasks according to importance and deadlines.
  • Block off time: Time-block your schedules so you don’t commit to more work than you can take on.
  • Use software: Use time and attendance tools with time clocks to determine how long specific recurring tasks take. Then, use this information to improve your time-blocking.
  • Take breaks: Employee breaks are known to boost productivity. Better yet, take vacations. Too many American employees are afraid to take vacations due to fears of losing their jobs. However, short- and long-term breaks foster long-term productivity much more than working overtime.
TipTip
The best time and attendance software can help you and your employees create work patterns while proactively suggesting breaks and adjustments that improve productivity.

10 businesses known for creative work schedules

Creative work schedules can help you and your team avoid working overtime when you should step away from your tasks and get a breather. The following companies are known for their creative work schedules. Some of these businesses are household names, while others are smaller organizations. Take that as a sign: Any business can establish flexible work policies to improve their team’s work-life balance.

  1. Intuit Inc.
  2. Dell
  3. Nike
  4. BairesDev
  5. Andela
  6. ModSquad
  7. Canva
  8. SharkNinja
  9. Yieldmo
  10. Athenahealth
Did You Know?Did you know
Often, remote workers are more productive than in-office employees. To maximize remote productivity, consider implementing video conferencing tools and communication platforms. Check out our GoTo Connect review to get started.

Rethinking the productivity of working overtime

Many studies suggest that your job can impact your health, with longer hours in the office leading to lower productivity due to employee stress and burnout. Experts advise taking breaks and prioritizing time away from work to get recentered and stay at your best. 

Strive to eliminate workplace stress by identifying key stressors, communicating with colleagues and your team, unplugging and doing more for yourself.

Sammi Caramela contributed to this article. 

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Written By: Max FreedmanBusiness Operations Insider and Senior Analyst
Max Freedman has spent nearly a decade providing entrepreneurs and business operators with actionable advice they can use to launch and grow their businesses. Max has direct experience helping run a small business, performs hands-on reviews and has real-world experience with the categories he covers, such as accounting software and digital payroll solutions, as well as leading small business lenders and employee retirement providers. Max has written hundreds of articles for Business News Daily on a range of valuable topics, including small business funding, time and attendance, marketing and human resources.
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