AHHHH, SWEET WORK|
Arlie Russell Hochschild, author of
"The Time Bind: When Work Becomes Home and Home Becomes Work"
July 31, 1997
Other questions asked in this forum:
Are other post-industrial countries working overtime as well? Haven't men been doing this for a long time? Were people relutcant toadmit the truth to you? Is this a regional phenomenon? Why won't Americans embrace the 35-hour work week? Question: Don't managers love the fact that employees love their work environments and hate home life? It means that the employees are happiest working, and that means more productivity.
Arlie Russell Hochschild responds:
I was at first tempted to answer your question, "yes, of course." Yes, because more hours means more work done, and yes, because longer hours also signal more workplace control over workers, and perhaps more worker "devotion," all of which employers generally want.
But, on the other hand, there are two reasons that the answer is also "no." Long work days often disguise low productivity. The Japanese work longer hours than the Germans, but experts agree that German workers are more productive. Also, long hours are associated with a higher rate of errors and accidents. (If I were going in for surgery I wouldn't want my surgeon to be dog-tired, making his way through another ten hour day.)
I asked managers what they thought the relation was between hours and productivity, and their answers were interesting. Their most creative workers were not the shortest hour workers, but neither were they those who worked the very longest hours. the top managers told me that the most creative workers they had (workers who "made a difference") were not workaholics. If they arrayed workers from top to bottom according to hours put in, the very longest hours people were not likely to be their most valuable workers. So, even companies need to re-examine the link of time to their own bottom line.
But we need to look at the relation between work hours and our whole culture's "bottom line." There are social costs to the family and community that aren't in anyone's long run interests -- including that of companies. If the families of over-stretched workers become over-stressed, this produces social problems that companies ultimately have to deal with (alcoholism, depression,etc). Over-stretched families are also less likely to produce a good crop of workers to replace today's crop.
Thank you all for your very thoughtful questions! For further answers, if you haven't done so, please read the book. Its message is more complex, more pro-women working, and far more sympathetic to its subjects than the media.