Do more working hours lead to higher productivity?

Working hours and their impact on employees’ productivity

In my opinion, as an employee, this question is rethorical. Working overtime does not only affect productivity in the short run, but it generates a counterproductive labour policy in the long run. Therefore, overtime work entails a negative effect on the mental and physical health.

However, the employment conditions are not usually oriented towards the well-being of employees.

In the late 19th century, the weekly working hours were almost double of the ones practiced in the 2000’s in Europe, especially in the Western part.[1].

Generally, the average amount of weekly working hours is 40, meaning that the working time for the full-time workers is 8 hours.  However, there are significant deviations from the mean around the world, as it is presented in the OECD Employment Outlook Report for 2017. Mexico is the most hardworking country, with a 2257 annual working hours for the average citizen (more than 9 working hours per day). On the second place is Costa Rica, which is described as ‘’the world’s happiest country’’[2] even with 2179 hours whereas at the bottom of the top we find Germany, with 1356 annual working hours.

In Romania, the Labour Code envisages the working conditions: ”the normal length of the working time for the full-time employees is of eight hours per day and 40 hours per week; the maximum legal length of the working time may not exceed 48 hours per week, including the overtime. By way of exception, the length of the working time, including the overtime, may be extended beyond 48 hours per week. However, the average working hours, calculated over a reference period of three calendar months, should not exceed 48 hours per week.”[3]

However, the smaller amount of annual working days in developed countries is not arbitrary. A closer look to the GDP per capita values reveals the fact that productivity reaches its peaks within a shorter working schedule, as presented in the chart below.

Exceeding the average working hours can lead to more stress, fatigue, deterioration of health, deprivation of sleep and also to frustrations which affect the overall work efficiency and satisfactions.

On the other hand, employers do not treat employees depending on their  age or sometimes capability. From their perspective, a 50 years old employee should have the same working performance as a 25 years old employee. This highly discredited approach is common nowadays, especially because the higher retiring age. (Romania – 65 years for both men and women)  According to a study carried out by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research in Australia, ‘’ our “fluid intelligence,” or how well we process information, begins its decline around the age of 20, while “crystallized intelligence,” or the ability to use knowledge and experiences, deteriorates starting around age 30”[4].

Due to the globalized economies and the less restrictive barriers amongst continents and countries, people grant less time for work in the household as well. However, one of the causes of this matter is the ovetime employees carry out at work, the burnout and toil that result from it. Hence, the imbalance between work and personal life is another issue of the digital era and its dynamic evolution. People proceed to a reconfiguration of expectations, interests and values and focus on their career to the detriment of emotional achievements.


Irina Badea, PhD

University of Craiova




[1] https://ourworldindata.org/working-hours, accessed at 16.07.2018

[2] http://happyplanetindex.org/, accessed at 16.07.2018

[3]Romanian Labour Code, Title III “Working time and rest period”, 2018

[4] http://time.com/money/4412392/full-time-work-brain/, accessed at 16.07.2018


Irina Badea

I was born in Craiova, Romania, in 1989. I graduated from the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, where I studied Finance and Banking. In 2016 I took my PhD in Finance and worked as a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the Finance, Banking and Economic Analysis Department at the University of Craiova for 2 years. My research interests are related to finance and public administration, but open to a multidisciplinary approach.

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