I’m trying to understand my employer better, so let me explain: As a knowledge worker (software developer to be specific) I noticed that after 6 hours of work diminishing returns start to kick in. The longer I stay the less I get done in the last hour and quality suffers. Some research shows that my experience conforms the general rule. Moreover research shows that the optimum of productivity is reached at 40 hours.
As the work week gets longer (whether by hours in a day or days in a week), the week’s productivity tends to remain exactly the same. In some instances, it even decreases. This is true for both white collar workers and manual laborers.
In contrast to that my workplace experience so far is that overtime (unpaid of cause) is encouraged. It seems to be part of the hiring process of many enterprises to tell new employees that their workforce is super motivated and work long hours. Which can be the fact or not, but makes their expectations clear.
Sometimes unrealistic deadlines are set or promises are made which run counter to conservative planning. More often than not employees try to meet those, by working overtime.
Usually it is mandatory to agree upon longer hours to get a significant raise or formal authority.
Given the negative effects of long work weeks, it would even be in the interest of the employers to actively discourage overtime. But this rarely happens.
The negatives effects of long hours should be common knowledge in a professional run company. So what is their rationale to incentive long hours at the expense of incentives which would matter more (getting things done, delivering high quality)?
I’m sure companies put a great deal of thought and consideration into their incentive structure, so someone, who participated in defining such would be able to give an exact answer.