Opinion and Editorial

Long hours don't make you productive

Shilpa Bhasin Mehra
Filed on November 15, 2020

What is noticed in the work place is that many times, the employees who are active and pursue their work diligently and efficiently, get more work on their table

What matters is the final score. We hear this statement ever so often in all sports. I think in these days of smart phones, smart cities, and basically everything smart, this statement applies across the board. The work needs to be done and results accomplished, counting the hours it took and rewarding the person who spent the most hours doing so, seems archaic.

Active in the physical sense of the word can only mean good — be it walking, aerobics, cycling or yoga. There is no bone of contention as far as the merit of being active physically is concerned. But in the work environment is being active or efficient truly appreciated or is it simply misused?

What is noticed in the work place is that many times, the employees who are active and pursue their work diligently and efficiently, get more work on their table. A few polite words of praise are, of course, awarded to them, but along with the praise comes heaps of additional work. This makes one wonder — is it really smart to be efficient? Should the efficient ones also join the band wagon of the not so efficient ones?

We hear of motivational workshops, seminars, and talks. But it’s high time that theory gets translated into practice. How do the bosses actually motivate their employees? If the good workers are being overloaded with more and more work, will they really be motivated to perform at their optimum best? The rewards should match the efforts. Sometimes words (even complimentary ones) seem hollow, when not followed by any concrete action.

It gets taken for granted to pass the work to Mr/ Ms Goody because he/ she will finish it in the most efficient manner. Work ethics motivate the sincere up to a certain level. But it is not a nice feeling to be misused. So what the employers don’t realise is that this sort of a working culture could be the very reason for the employees to feel demotivated. It is not the work per se or the workload, because humans have an innate tendency to survive even under extreme pressure. Work doesn’t kill anyone, but the attitude and work culture of the employers could kill the enthusiasm of the employees to work efficiently.

As children, we are taught to be prompt, sincere in our work, honest in our dealings with others, co-operative and all the other good stuff. When we enter into the real world, we begin with these lofty ideals. Yes, I call them ideals, because soon enough, we start to doubt their relevance in the world outside of the school books.

I read a beautiful and pertinent quote, “Things were meant to be used and people loved. But in today’s world, things are being loved and people used.” Very sad indeed! If we want a congenial and conducive work environment, we need to create a right working culture, where the juniors and seniors are treated with respect. Respect should come from the fact that it is earned— and not forced due to fear or any ulterior motive.

When it comes to productivity we often focus on how long something takes to complete; as opposed to what we actually accomplished in a day. In fact, research from the Behance team found “that placing importance on hours and physical presence over action and results leads to a culture of inefficiency (and anxiety).”

“The pressure of being required to sit at your desk until a certain time creates a factory-like culture that ignores a few basic laws of idea generation and human nature: (1) When the brain is tired, it doesn’t work well, (2) Idea generation happens on its own terms, (3) When you feel forced to execute beyond your capacity, you begin to hate what you are doing.”

One way to assist you with measuring results instead of time is by generating done lists. This is simply an ongoing log of everything you completed in a day. By keeping this list you’ll feel more motivated and focused since you can actually see what you accomplished. This gives you a chance to celebrate your accomplishments, and helps you plan more effectively.

Responsibility, accountability, transparency, and mutual respect are integral parts of a good working environment, and apply equally to all. What is required is motivation and not only delegation. We have to ‘walk the talk’. The managers have to show the way by leading by example. Efficiency demands and commands efficiency! Be inspirational in order to inspire others.

Shilpa Bhasin Mehra is a legal consultant based in Dubai and the founder of Legal Connect

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