Is a day of rest good for productivity?
December 13, 2007 6:19 AM   Subscribe

I've heard of studies that having a day of rest in the week (like Sunday) actually increases productivity than had they worked all seven days. Does anybody know of any studies or statistics to support this claim?
posted by JaySunSee to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
There's plenty of research on burnout. The theory is the same--too much work without adequate rest results in reduced productivity.
posted by peachy at 6:55 AM on December 13, 2007

Best answer: Why Crunch Mode Doesn't Work

That article is concerned specifically with the video game industry, but I think it presents some data that you'll find useful if you're looking for data about white collar jobs.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:57 AM on December 13, 2007 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Surely this is simple common sense? Anyone who works seven days a week will eventually work more slowly, make mistakes and end up being pretty difficult to work with. Rest and relaxation is a psychological necessity, and from a purely mercenary point of view, you get better quality work out of people who are well rested and appreciated, rather than seen as interchangeable ball bearings you get rid of when they're finished with.

From a humanistic point of view, there's more to life than 'productivity'. And 'productivity' is a relative thing. You can produce tons of poor quality work if you're exhausted, don't care about your job and haven't had a holiday in months. Or you can produce really good stuff if you have the freedom, tools and realistic expectations in place that allow you to do it. Rest and relaxation is a big part of that.

Are you trying to convince someone to give you a day off?

These may help:

Wikipedia page on burnout. (lots of references to academic studies.

Guardian article on the myth of indispensability.

In praise of idleness.
posted by Happy Dave at 7:07 AM on December 13, 2007

backseatpilot, that Crunch Mode essay is superb, lots of resources linked in it. Thanks!
posted by Happy Dave at 7:17 AM on December 13, 2007

To me the best evidence has always been -- why is the work week 5 days long? Surely there must be a reason? I think I remember reading Peter Drucker or somebody that mentioned that back in the day, factory and business owners figured out rather quickly the "sweet spot" for worker productivity, which was 40 hours of work per week. Any more than that and productivity started going down.
posted by drinkcoffee at 8:31 AM on December 13, 2007

Best answer: Yep, here it is.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:57 AM on December 13, 2007

Best answer: And here's Henry Ford's seminal essay on why he cut the working week at his factories to five days, but kept pay the same as when it was six - short answer, people are actually better workers if they work a 40 hour work week, and with more leisure time, will go out and spend more, which drives the economy.

Here's a rather elegant essay from Boris Johnson on the value of having the:

"time and freedom to bunk off, read a book, play with the children, do a picture (no matter how useless), write a poem (no matter how bad), draw up plans for your expedition to the Mato Grosso or just sit and get sozzled in the sun."
posted by Happy Dave at 9:14 AM on December 13, 2007 [2 favorites]

How weird! I just Googled "who actually works 40 hours a week?" yesterday and found the crunch time article, completely independently of your query. This is the time of year for it, eh?
posted by limeonaire at 10:30 AM on December 13, 2007

"factory and business owners"? Um, wasn't the 8-hour day and the 5-day week also a regular request of turn-of-the-century labor unions? With the (honestly, a little weird) exception of Ford, most large factory, mine, sweatshop, etc owners were quite willing to work their employees about to death. After all, there were always more immigrants, people running away from the farm, etc., etc.

I recently finished reading a book about 1919, and the coal miners and steelworkers both went on strike that year, both demanding, among other things a shorter work week. (Miners: 5 days, steelworkers, 6 days. Coal miners regularly worked 69-hour weeks, sometimes on 24-hour shifts.)

In both cases, management refused to negotiate at all, the strikers were painted as Bolshevists in the media, and in the end, they were unsuccessful. IIRC, later strikes were significantly more successful. I used to work with a woman who had the bumper sticker: "Unions, the people who brought you the weekend" or something like that.

And to answer the question, yes, of course a day of rest is good for productivity. :)
posted by epersonae at 11:10 AM on December 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Great answers everybody. Thank you.
posted by JaySunSee at 12:17 PM on December 13, 2007

I'm gonna go get sozzled right now!
posted by drinkcoffee at 2:51 PM on December 15, 2007

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