Money in both the public and private sectors is pouring into inactivity. We are paying employees to occupy a desk 8 hours a day to complete 2 tasks that could have been completed in 2 hours and 15 minutes. These tasks may be very important, and may require a lot of energy, hard work and ingenuity, but they were completed from 10:30am-12:45pm, then the employee went to lunch, and now they're sitting at their computer hitting the refresh button on Facebook. Or even better, they were started at 10:30am, dragged out until 4:30pm, and then finally thrown together poorly at 4:55pm. In the creative industry - actually, in ANY industry - productivity is the result of a good mood, inspiration, and the energy needed to complete the task. But if there are 3 tasks to be completed for the day, why not let employees leave once they are completed? In our hyper-connected world, being on call 24/7 is hardly asking too much - you're turned on 24/7 anyway. So if another task does come up once the employee has left for the day, feeling the need to slot it into the 9-5 availability period almost seems archaic.
If I could come into work when I wanted to come into work, but was paid for the timeliness and quality of the tasks I was held responsible for completing, I would do everything faster, better, and could easily do MORE. If I could sleep in when necessary, travel to gain inspiration when I felt it was needed, but was happy to do a 14-hour work day if I had a lot to accomplish, my life, and the life of my employer, would be improved.
Jason Fried, cofounder of 37signals, agrees. He insists that productivity comes in waves, and pushing through period of low-productivity is a waste of time for everyone. To solve the issue, he offers employees 30 days paid sabbatical (on top of vacation time) if they've put in 3-weeks work and feel that they need to recharge.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, only about 2% of U.S. employers offer a "results-only" work environment. The Wall Street Journal, however, recently highlighted the growing trend in unlimited vacation time - many white-collar companies, like Netflix, have stopped tracking vacation time in order to focus on what really matters: the quality of their work.
What employees do with such endless possibilities varies - many end up working more and vacationing less, simply because they don't feel like they can ask for time off. That fact goes to show that ultimately, office policies aren't as important as the office mentalities that become policy in practice. America is the only country I've ever been in that works as hard as it does, but it's becoming increasingly evident that taking time off shouldn't be taboo - it should be encouraged.
Need further evidence? Check out this GOOD infographic on The Overworked American.