From the Director’s Desk: Is working harder always smarter??

This week we welcome our very own Mark Werwath, Director of the Master of Engineering Management Program. He will collaborate with this space on a monthly basis; this is his first post:

While it is true that the millennial generation seems to represent a shift in what is expected from the workplace and what work life balance means in the current generation, it is also true that there have been many diagnoses and many solutions to the challenge as we know it. The latest is a piece from INC magazine (http://www.inc.com/jt-odonnell/3-reasons-millennials-are-getting-fired.html) that implies that the work life balance expectations are not in balance with the corporate expectations.

My personal experience in corporate America is that the expectations continue to grow without bound: working very long hours, often for many weeks or months at a stretch. Maintaining accessibility on a near 24 hour basis, using text and email, which is company supplied, and therefore expected nearly around the clock seems normal. I talk to undergrad students who are interviewing with large consulting firms all the time and the expectations are often that your work day during the week is often a dozen or more hours. I think it is important that we as managers help set the culture and we need to understand that more hours is not necessarily a measure of more productive or effective work. I hope all of us are aware of the studies that show decreased productivity in knowledge work after about 45-50 hours per week. The graph below shows the relationship between productivity (GDP per hour worked) and annual working hours for OECD countries:

Picture1

There is a significant body of work that describes this phenomena, this is a link to a recent article in the Economist: http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2013/09/working-hours.

I hope this entry helps you inquire as to what your measure of success really is. Is a success metric based on the clock or is it measured based on your output and differential impact?

One thought on “From the Director’s Desk: Is working harder always smarter??

  1. Hi Mark,

    Great post! It’s fantastic to see people in positions of authority speaking about this.

    One thing I’ve always been curious about is how to measure output effectively and efficiently in an engineering context. I’ve long thought that engineers need to move away from punching the clock and towards getting things done. That would benefit engineers and their organizations alike. The question, though, is how to measure that output. Have you ever come across any workable methods for doing this?

    Thanks very much!
    Pat

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