June 17, 2004


CAREER PROS: Pushing Productivity Over the Edge (Michael Kinsman, 6/13/04, California Job Journal)

The American workforce, which already puts in longer workweeks and takes less time off than most of the rest of the world, has built productivity this year to its highest point in two decades. [...]

In a survey of 550 companies, Circadian recently found that a disproportionate share of the workforce is putting in long hours. About 20 percent of the workers are accounting for 60 percent of all overtime these days.

Circadian cautions that when you ask people to work too much, you find some fallout. Low employee morale, more on-the-job accidents and more workers' comp claims are the signs that workers are being driven - or driving themselves - too hard.

Circadian believes that most workers can work about 12-percent overtime, or about five hours per week, before their productivity is adversely affected.

Yet Circadian says many employers believe they can increase productivity by simply working existing employees longer hours. Sure, they have to pay time-and-a-half overtime, but they don't have to pay for the recruitment and benefits that come with additional workers.

Perhaps the most disconcerting part of this situation is that many workers are all too eager to put in extra hours. "You will always find a group of individuals who are willing to put in overtime hours so they can make more money," notes Mitchell. "But we're sort of amazed at how deep this runs."

Circadian found that among workers who were already putting in 400 hours of overtime annually, a majority of them wanted to work still more.

Obviously you can overdo it, but otherwise you've got employers willing to pay people and eager employees--what's the problem?

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 17, 2004 7:45 AM

This article would be more useful if Kinsman had a clue what productivity actually measured.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 17, 2004 9:00 AM

Excuse me, but I think this guy's idea of productivity is all screwed up.

Productivity is units of output from units of input.

With respect to people, the unit is time and its cost, not the rate of time per person.

I grant this is a little simplistic (health costs are a function of people employed), but the real reason productivity has increased is because we are producing more for a given amount of inputs, and the number of people is not an input.

Posted by: at June 17, 2004 12:13 PM

You can't over do it, OJ. Employers wouldn't be willing to pay if they weren't getting their money's worth.

Posted by: jsmith at June 19, 2004 9:11 PM