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Long Work Hours Hinder Success

This startup has become successful by insisting that nobody work more than 40 hours a week.

Conventional wisdom says that success comes from spending plenty of extra time at the office.  Unfortunately for those who suffer from this delusion, long work hours make people less rather than more productive.

As I pointed out in "Stop Working More Than 40 Hours", numerous studies show that working long hours gives a short-term productivity gain, followed by a sharp decline.  You eventually end up getting less done than if you worked a more reasonable schedule.

I recently ran across a perfect example of a startup that's become successful without running its employees ragged: BambooHR, which has built a global Human Resources services business with hundreds of customers, including Stitcher, Fab and Pinterest.

Unlike most high tech firms, though, BambooHR has eschewed the typical startup model of building onsite game rooms, breakfast nooks and other things designed to keep people at work.  Instead, it has a firm policy against workaholism.

"We trade a strict adherence to a 40-hour workweek for all employees in return for their commitment to making all of those hours productive and efficient," explains cofounder Ryan Sanders.

Sanders, who developed this philosophy as a graduate student in organizational leadership at Gonzaga University, believes that this policy makes employees more productive, loyal and sharp because they don't have to worry about burnout.

So, if you're working long hours yourself and demanding the same of your employees, take a good look around. If your people are burned out (or close to it) or if you're feeling burned out yourself, maybe it's time to rethink conventional wisdom.

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Last updated: Sep 18, 2013


Geoffrey James, a contributing editor for, is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed more than a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for the free weekly Sales Source newsletter.

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