the time and productivity paradox – everything in diminishing returns

“Nobody’s good at everything, but we’re all good at something.”

Or so I remember from the commercial, it never resonated with me as a kid since I was too absorbed by what’s happening after the advertisement. And I don’t quite remember what the commercial was actually about, other than maybe getting kids to be more active in an increasingly sedentary world.

However, today I thought to myself.

“Good enough to be sustained for 60 hours over the course of the week?”

That tagline somehow resurfaced today when I read in a news article that a certain US presidential candidate wants Americans to work longer hours (if you’re curious enough to Google yourself by all means).

Did he mean those single moms with two jobs but are still on food stamps?

Or those who cannot find work because their industry shrank and never revived even after the recession?

What about the increasing problem of pensioners’ decreasing quality of life due to changing trends and inflation?

Should pensioners rejoin the workforce for longer hours added onto their lifetime of service?

What about ‘misemployment’, isn’t that a great waste of everybody’s talents?

What really ticked me off was that – yeah sure, you could work longer hours, but what are you really working towards?

Longer hours does not equate more productivity.

In the short-run, sure, it’s intuitive. However.

Longer work inputs does not bring greater outputs in the long run. Longer work hours actually decreases productivity in the long run.

I’d been reading Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much. In it, author Eldar Shafir states from countless research how longer work weeks are not only detrimental to one’s productivity when carried out beyond the threshold (approximately logging 60 hours instead of 40 hours in 2 months time), but it is also detrimental to one’s health.

Work, even work you’re passionate about can be too much of a good thing. In Economic terms, the law of diminishing returns. There comes a point where more input fails to generate more output, or could actually decrease output. This would be the perfect example. 

So, I hate to think, where does that leave your regular counter clerks, or people who can barely get by on their already maxed out 60 hours week pay stubs?

What should they do? 

Or you know, here are a few suggestions that might actually alleviate the problem in the long run: as in how about asking those workers:

“How would you like to contribute?”

It’s a simple enough question and I’m sure most people would give you ideas on how they could contribute to the economy better than many of those low paying jobs out there now. If only they had a chance.

Instead of making everyday people work longer hours, how about we tax the top 1% more and create more social programs to supplement those who are struggling so they don’t have to work ridiculous hours just to get by, but leave them with enough time for educational programs so they could get out of their dead-end roles?

Instead of saying 60 hours is the new norm because we’re all good, hardworking Americans, how about you do something about those astronomical tuition fees poor college students have to pay just to get an education – and those who are not fortunate enough have to make due with what they learn in high school.

How about, instead of ignoring the people in favour of corporations that fund you, make a stand anyways – because we don’t need the same old. More than ever, we need a real leader, someone who can stand up for the people. Someone with an innovative mind, someone who’s not afraid to make changes – because progress requires change. How are we really going to get out of the quagmire of mediocrity if we don’t push forward for something better as individuals and as a nation?

I don’t touch on politics because the lot of it is opinion. My opinion versus your opinion, and the majority wins (that’s democracy in a nutshell). And this post is purely my opinion. Maybe you agree, maybe you don’t. But it just astounds me how this suggestion was made by a presidential candidate who probably has more resources than anyone else to get the facts correct. If he’d just asked. Or even, got a team of people together, ‘how would you fix this, solve this, do a cost benefit analysis on this and that.’ – simple enough task. Why not work smarter and not harder?


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