August 26, 2015 Anil Saxena

The Mechanics Of Productivity – We Are Not Machines!


For years and years, the common conception has been that more hours worked equals increased productivity – the more time spent on the job, the more work gets done.  But, is that really the truth?
Recently, when I was at a client function and overheard two colleagues discussing the number of hours that they put in on a daily basis. The first gentleman said that he works until eight or 9 PM every night and never got to see his kids. The other, bragged that he worked until seven went home had dinner turned on his computer worked some more and worked the weekend. But does that make them more productive, effective and able to produce more results?


When factories need more parts made, they extend the shift hours. When a firm sees a spike in business, they expect employees to stay later to meet the increased volume. Even when long hours are not based on a company-wide need, it has been a long held belief that “going the extra mile,” and spending more time on the job than others is commendable, productive behavior to be admired.
This is a perfectly logical conclusion for dealing with automatons, but hardly makes sense for real, live people. As management mentality continues to shift toward employee engagement, shared expectations, and other “worker-centric” practices, it is becoming very clear that more time spent working does not necessarily translate to more work getting done. Human beings, after all, are not machines.


There are numerous studies and articles (Stop Working More than 40 Hours Per Week & They Work Long Hours, but What About Results? just to name two) written to dispel this misconception. It has become quite clear that employees are more productive when they are:

• Well-rested,
• Happy, and
• Able to “refuel” themselves from time to time.
People get stressed, they get tired, and they lose momentum in the face of monotony. Each of us can recognize the benefits of a short break to “clear your head,” or remember a time that temporarily walking away from a problem was key to finding the solution.
In an article in the Harvard Business Review, Tony Schwartz discusses this Law of Diminishing Returns as it pertains to the workplace, saying:

“It’s not just the number of hours we sit at a desk in that determines the value we generate. It’s the energy we bring to the hours we work. Human beings are designed to pulse rhythmically between spending and renewing energy. That’s how we operate at our best. Maintaining a steady reservoir of energy — physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually — requires refueling it intermittently.”
Workers in all sectors can actually get more done (in less time) by taking steps to stay fresh and alert on the job. Not only will employees get more done, they will be happier about doing it, and this is the path to true engagement and personal investment in a company.
To keep a business running like a well-oiled machine, managers have to understand that employees are NOT mechanical – one can’t simply turn a dial and expect increased results.
What do you think?

Anil Saxena is the President of Cube 2.14, an organizational development consulting firm that works with clients to increase both customer and employee engagement while decreasing turnover, improving customer retention, and increasing profitability within organizations.

Saxena is a certified High Impact coach and trainer and a Joint Application Design facilitator. He is also certified by both Rush Systems and IBM as a focus group facilitator. He is an inaugural member of Northwestern University’s Learning and Organizational Change program, and he earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology.


Cube 2.14 will increase your organizational effectiveness. We specialize in developing innovative, practical solutions to create productive workplaces that exceed goals.