Friday, January 30, 2015


Working long hours, not a great idea.

Nearly half of U.S. workers say they routinely put in more than 50 hours on the job each week, often without overtime pay. But employers should probably start politely declining the "free" gift, new research suggests.

So-called "work martyrs" give hundreds of hours in free labor to their employers every year, encouraged by always-on gadgets, work through nights, weekends, and vacations. Trading sleep or fun for unpaid work is obviously a bad deal for employees, but there's a growing body of evidence that even apparently "free" labor might not be a good deal for employers, either.

Research that attempts to quantify the relationship between hours worked and productivity found that employee output falls sharply after a 50-hour work-week, and falls off a cliff after 55 hours—so much so that someone who puts in 70 hours produces nothing more with those extra 15 hours, according to a study published last year by John Pencavel of Stanford University. ...

I noticed it at Disney Feature in the early nineties, when Jeffrey Katzenberg was pushing staff to turn out animated features "better, cheaper, faster."

Then it came to my attention during Space Jam. The crew, spread out across Glendale and Sherman Oaks (not to mention far-off geographical locations) was working seven-day, fifteen-hour weeks to meet an insane schedule. (I won't bore you about how it got insane, but do the words "late start" and "hard release date" have resonance?)

Long, unending work days = Way Less Work

I was at the Glendale and Sherman Oaks studios quite a bit, and the predominant retinal image was of bleary-eyes animators and assistants staring blankly at their light boards. Doing nothing. It was pretty apparent that if the over-worked crew had gotten a day off here, and two days off there, they would have gotten much more work done. Because their frontal lobes would have been functioning.

But management couldn't do that, because if the deadline hadn't been met, some folks wearing ties would have lost their jobs. ("What?! These people had a FREE DAY!?") So, no time off.

The deadline was ultimately met, but only because Warners threw a lot of money at the project as the days dwindled down to a precious few. And that report up on top? It's really a statement of the obvious.


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