The Economist has unearthed a sad new twist on an apparently persistent trend. It would seem that despite work-life balance and our ability to work where we like and to some extent when we like, overworking is back: especially in knowledge-intensive industries.
My days in professional services go back many years and I'm old enough to remember the awful macho culture that persisted in larger firms. Long hours were deemed to be a badge of commitment and those that worked the longest were often promoted the quickest. That had very little to do with capability or effectiveness: much more to do with political sensibility and the art of being 'visible'. The all- too- familiar results were tired and ineffective employees, broken relationships, stress-related illnesses and mid- life crises.
Businesses employ bright people to be innovative and inventive. That can only happen if they are energised and refreshed. So please: as managers let us do everything in our power to prevent a recurrence of the long-hours culture. It does nothing to help our productivity and actively damages the health of our employees.
If we see one of our colleagues slogging away, let us be brave and send him or her home.
The Veblenian argument says that as jobs have generally become more knowledge-intensive, they have become more interesting. There are more whizzy things like computer-programming around these days, and fewer really dull jobs, like elevator-operators. As a result, people (especially the well-educated ones, who can find those cool jobs) quite like being at work: hence longer hours