Skip to content

Work Less and Be More Productive? Find Out How

February 14, 2013

Do you work frantically all day long before  immersing yourself in back-to-back afternoon meetings, after eating lunch at your desk?  Are you always behind on emails and find yourself responding  in the evenings and weekends?  Do you always feel harried and exhausted?

In a recent article in the  NY Times, Tony Schwartz cites research that indicates how strategic renewal  – daytime workouts, afternoon naps, longer sleeping hours, more time away from the office, and longer and more frequent vacations,  can lead to greater productivity, job performance and health.  But isn’t this contrary to many workplace cultures that view time at the office, not to mention evening and weekend work, as  signs of dedicated, productive employees?

Energy is finite, but unlike time, it is renewable.  We can’t add more hours to the day, but we can find ways to increase our energy levels to be more productive.

 The Research on Sleep Deprivation

One study of 400 employees published last year found that sleeping less that six hours per night  was the best predictor of job burnout.  A recent Harvard study found that sleep deprivation costs US companies $63.2B  a year in lost productivity.  A Stanford researcher found that when she got basketball players to sleep 10 hours a night, free-throw and three-point shooting increased nine percent. Research has also demonstrated that air traffic controllers performed better on tests that measured vigilance and reaction time if they were given a 40 minute nap time and slept an average of 19 minutes.  And longer naps have an even greater positive e impact that shorter naps.


In 2006 Ernst & Young conducted an internal study of its employees  and found that performance ratings by supervisors increased by eight percent for each additional 10 hours of vacation taken by an employee.  But when we are under pressure, we take fewer and shorter vacations, which is also contraindicated if we look at this research.

90 Minute Cycles

Researchers have also discovered that during the day we move from a state of alertness progressively into fatigue about every 90 minutes.  Our bodies give us the message that we need to take a break, but alas, we feel we  can’t.  So much to do, so little time!  Instead we get another cup of coffee, or as I just did , reach for more dark chocolate.  Caffeine, sugar and adrenaline keep most of us going and result in a cycle that allows for little rest and recovery time.  And this leads to burnout.

What Can We Do?

Speaking with your supervisors about what you need to perform at your best is a start.  How can you adjust your work schedules for more flexibility?  telecommuting two or three days a week can help. It saves the time and stress of  commuting so more time is spent being productive.  Employers who offer workout facilities, or who allow employees to leave the office to go to nearby gyms can experience the advantage of endorphins at work.  Meditation rooms and lounge facilities where people can rest or nap may also help.  And knowing what you need to do well is critical first step.  Experiment and pay attention.  You are unique.



Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: