Recently, Chinese entrepreneur Jack Ma kicked up a storm online after he suggested that working 12 hours a day was necessary and that it shows the dedication of an employee toward their company. While some supported his statements by arguing that companies might suffer losses due to the cut-throat competition if employees work for fewer hours, others pointed that out longer working times will actually produce negative results for the business.
The idea that longer work schedules lead to decreased productivity is not new. Famous entrepreneur Henry Ford realized this after more than 10 years of research. In 1914, he took an unprecedented step that shocked businesses — Ford cut down working hours from 9 hours to 8 hours and doubled the pay of his employees. At a time when businesses were looking to squeeze as much as they could from the workers, Ford was seen as an enemy.
The National Association of Manufacturers criticized Ford very bitterly. But over the next few years, businesses started adopting Ford’s ideas as they realized that it produced far better results. “In 1937, the 40-hour week was enshrined nationwide as part of the New Deal. By that point, there were a solid five decades of industrial research that proved, beyond a doubt, that if you wanted to keep your workers bright, healthy, productive, safe, and efficient over a sustained stretch of time, you kept them to no more than 40 hours a week and eight hours a day,” according to Salon.
Today, we have a greater number of research reports that confirm forcing employees to work until exhaustion leads to a sharp decrease in productivity. Employees often end up making errors that affect the company’s bottom line. Maybe its time for Ma or some other entrepreneur to take a leaf out of Ford’s book and try out his concepts.
An overworked workforce is bad news for a company from a health perspective. Such people often suffer from various medical conditions, like depression, diabetes, heart disease, etc., that can cost the business dearly. According to the American Institute of Stress, almost 60 percent of patient visits occur due to people suffering from stress-related health issues. This only results in lower attendance and higher insurance costs for the companies.
There is a direct link between the morale of the employees and how productive they are. A study conducted by economists at the University of Warwick found that happy employees had 12 percent higher productivity while unhappy employees had 10 percent less productivity than normal. Forcing employees to work for long hours is guaranteed to make them feel low in morale. In contrast, an 8-hour schedule gives them enough time to socialize with their loved ones or pursue their hobbies. This creates a well-balanced life where employees will be high on morale during working hours.
A human being can only work for so long before losing their nerves and exiting from their line of work. A 12-hour work schedule is almost guaranteed to create a high employee turnover ratio. The costs associated with hiring new employees and training them properly will end up being so high that companies would actually be better off retaining their workers by cutting down their working time.