Recently President Obama announced a change in Labor Laws so that more people would qualify for overtime payment. On many levels this is a good thing, but it also points to the bigger question as to why, particularly Americans, place such emphasis on overtime and whether at some point, more actually becomes less. When you think about it, overtime was essentially designed as a contingency for completing a task on time when something has gone wrong. However in many cases it has become the new norm (hence the law change) and people are just working more hours.
However, it points to a simple question of whether working say an extra 10% hours will actually result in a 10% increase in productivity. Most people would typically answer not necessarily. There is a theory that work expands and contracts to the time that is available. People can always look busy but how productive are they really? In addition, the more people work, the less rested they are, personal life can become affected and consequently they may not be 100% “fit” when they come to work. So is overtime really a waste of time?
In Europe it has been widely broadcasted as to how in France the normal work week is 35 hours, in Italy they have 4 weeks’ summer vacation and yet these economies are still productive. But more importantly, and this is been seen in many of the newer ventures on the US (Google, Zappos, etc), that performance is no longer viewed in productivity terms, (Output / Time) but rather in attitude, team work, behavior, coaching and problem solving skills. Where employees have these attributes, things happen and results get realized. Is putting in more time an easy answer, but ultimately the wrong answer?
In the long term, with a focus on providing more skills rather than more time, productivity will increase and people will be fresh to meet these demands because they will have had the rest to give of their best in the actual time allotted. In reality, though there are always some exceptions, overtime eventually reaches a point of diminishing return. What do you think?