It’s 3 p.m., and I’m Feeling a Little Drowsy

Posted on Dec 16, 2013 | 2 Comments

For those of us who like the idea of a six-hour workday, with plenty of rest in the interim, science is on our side.

“Pushing employees to clock up those extra hours is bad for their well-being and detrimental to your company,” writes Lauren Davidson in Quartz.

day&night

Image credit: UberMoment

Davidson points out that “humans operate on a cyclical basis, which means our energy and motivation fluctuate in peaks and troughs.” Workplaces, then, may be best off sparing employees from being too busy in the early morning or mid-afternoon, both stretches of low focus for the typical worker.

All in all, she suggests, “a shorter workday works particularly well for knowledge workers—people in creative or professional jobs—who can work productively for about six hours a day, compared to the eight hours manual laborers can churn out.”

Well, hey, with suggestions like that, we’re feeling more creative by the minute—and we’ll probably need to knock off pretty soon. But, before we turn out the lights, we’ll offer some thoughts that Peter Drucker might have on the subject.

As we’ve related before, Drucker took a jaundiced view of the term “creativity,” calling it (in The Frontiers of Management) “the buzzword of those who don’t innovate.” He also viewed creativity as a poor tool upon which to rely when deciding how to work. “Everything we know also indicates that the proper structure of work—of any work—is not intuitively obvious,” he wrote in Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices.

But, to be fair, the findings reported by Davidson are different, for they suggest that we’re best off taking a systematic approach to harvesting creativity—for instance, by putting people to work at their peak hours.

As Drucker often observed, we are still trying to figure out how to make knowledge workers more productive and how to measure their results, and if shorter hours lead to more effectiveness and measurably better results, Drucker would certainly favor such an approach.

“Do they work on the truly important things, or do they fritter away their time?” Drucker asked about knowledge workers. “Are they being used productively, or are they just being kept busy? . . . These are crucial questions that cannot be answered by checking on how many hours a person works.”

What do you think of doing away with a 9-to-5 schedule for knowledge workers?

2 Comments

  1. Greg Zerovnik
    December 21, 2013

    People differ. Uniformity for the sake of conformity is the refuge of the clueless.

    Reply
  2. Jeffrey Smyth
    December 21, 2013

    Work expands to fill the time available — so does malingering!

    Reply

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