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Out of Our Minds
Monday, August 28, 2006 9:00 PM
The Secret to Success: Work Less
Anita Sharpe on Business

It's true. If you need statistics and proof, check out this piece by Margaret Heffernan in a past print edition of Worthwhile. But I think we all instinctively know it. There comes a point where 12-hour days and no breaks produce nothing but diminishing returns. 

So why is it that 40 percent of Americans had no plans to take a vacation this summer, according to a survey by the Conference Board? 

How many of you took two weeks of vacation this summer?
We know it's important, yet we don't do it.  The accounting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, now completely closes up shop twice a year to force its staff to stop working. Officials told the New York Times this month that its seeing positive results from a workforce that regularly recharges its batteries.

Most companies aren't so enlightened. Taking time off is still too often equated with slacking off. How many of you honestly think you can go away for two weeks and

a.) not check email even once

b.) not be called a single time by your office or a client

c.) not be a little concerned if you could completely disappear for two weeks and no one really missed you?


Gautam - 9/1/2006 9:06:10 AM
Marlo, that shows that the companies don't have backup plans to their "key staff"

Tell them that if they don't let them take time off, they'll soon be scrambling to fill their attrition !
djchuang - 8/30/2006 1:35:52 PM
The numbers as staggeringly worse -- NYT offered a correction to their original report, and said that 60% of Americans had no vacation plans for the summer! cf.
Marlo - 8/30/2006 12:26:01 AM
Yeah right. I cant take a day off without a phone call from my staff. We have a great time off policy but most of our senior management staff cannot take that amount time off. Any suggestions to companies that have a difficult time allowing key staff to take time off?
Monica Ricci - 8/29/2006 8:37:57 AM
I love the article. It makes a lot of sense and I will likely print it out for my time-challenged clients to see. But I admit I was rubbed the wrong way when the piece compared American output to the French. Ugh. Puh-leeeeze don't do that. They work fewer hours because their government mandates it. At least we have the choice of how much (or little) we want to work.
Greg Lumpkin - 8/29/2006 7:53:22 AM
I liked Margaret Heffernan's article so much that I printed it out and keep it in my briefcase. It is an excellent piece.

That being said, I believe that American workers are afraid to take time off. They are afraid of being replaced by younger workers who can put in more time and not "feel it". As an example, I work in the Information Technology field. I am 44 years old and have a wife, two kids, two dogs, two cats, bills and a mortgage. My "competition" is a mid-twenty year old who has a car lease payment and one fourth of the rent and utility bills on an apartment downtown. He/she has no immediate family to support or responsibilities so long hours mean nothing to them. They work, they party, they sleep, etc.

Americans do work more because, as the article points out, the majority of upper management in corporations still adhere to the belief that long hours equal profits (for the company). After all, that's how they got that corner office, right?
Kevin - 8/29/2006 3:52:20 AM
All hourly workers where I am employed are made to "volunteer" for mandatory overtime. A little extra doesn't impact production, but 12 hour days 7 days a week leads to low morale and lower production levels. I am willing to bet that the extra work can be handled by cross training workers on several jobs so volunteers can cover extra production needs. There are many workers who have to be present on weekends without enough work to fill the time so 15 minute jobs are stretched out to take an hour or more time because supervisors are not allowed to send people home or to cancel the overtime. Managment has spoken so less work is getting done for time and a half or double time.


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