The Virtues of Working Less

Some companies have begun to diverge from this thinking, though, taking after the “work less, work better” philosophy. The Michigan-based software company Menlo Innovations looks down on employees who clock in more than 40 hours per week, seeing overwork not as a sign of dedication but as a marker of inefficiency. Working overtime has even led to a few layoffs at the company, according to Brigid Schulte, the author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time. Finally, there is also the simple reason for perpetuating overwork: cultural inertia. Americans have worked long hours in the past, so regardless of new technologies or jumps in efficiencies, we continue working the same number of hours, even if doing so has no discernible effect, or even a negative effect, on productivity. On top of that, everyone else is already stuck in their ways: being the first person in the office who starts cutting back on work time “for the sake of productivity” without fearing repercussion would require courage and a bit of naiveté.

It is August, which means most of Europe is on their month-long vacation and The Atlantic is beating one of my favorite drums: To Work Better, Work Less.

Many people are still stuck on the fundamental importance of work compared to free time: the structure it gives, the purpose it affords, the morality it signifies. But what if we viewed leisure time not as goofing off, but as necessary time for reflecting, for inspiring creativity, and for saving up brainpower and energy for future work?

This reminded me of some of the comments from when we talked about the dying dream of the four-hour workday last week:

xtinamartinson described my life right now:

I say constantly that part-time is the dream. When I was home with my second baby, I worked a bit after 5 weeks of leave. He is such a sweet easy baby that I actually wanted something real to do with my time and of course I needed the money with the giant medical bills & triple daycare bill the first month I would be back at work. I worked about 13 hours a week. It was perfect. I had time with my kids. I did mountains of laundry. I went out to lunch with the “Stay at Home Moms.” It was great, but I do really like my job, and I really love childcare, and going out to lunch with the “Moms who work” or the “Single co-workers with different problems.”

then polka dots vs stripes brought some truth, per usual:

I get so much more work done in shorter periods of time. There are very few people in the world who TRULY have 40 hours worth of work to do, and making us/me sit here for 8 hours a day just encourages me to keep gchatting. My most productive intern periods were always the shorter, 2–4 hour shifts because I knew I had a limited amount of time To Get Stuff Done.

I also still maintain that a siesta type of period from 11–2 would benefit everyone’s productivity. Work 7–11 or 8–11, run errands, exercise, take a nap, then work again from 2–5 or 2–6 or something. It’d be great.

And PicNic nailed the realest cheese-based American dream:

I do think a 4 day work week, 6 hour days, would be ideal. or a 5 day work week, 4 hour days. or to be independently wealthy so I can spend my days going to yoga and laying on the couch eating fancy cheese and read every book ever written until I have all the wisdom like The Giver (just re-read) and people come and bring me exotic treats and beg for my advice on how to handle their petty little overworked brain problems and my answer will always be something vague and zen about “Being Still” or “Harvest under a full moon”