Laid-back at work? This can lead to higher efficiency, thanks (in-part) to Gen-Ys


As Generation Y (Gen-Ys) start to trickle into the job market and slowly become a core constituent part of the international labour force, companies are starting to question their traditional values and attitudes towards work. In most cases, they’re having to adjust their expectations, ethics and standards to accommodate this new generation of employees.

Gen-Ys have received a lot of criticism for their laid-back attitude, but it appears this approach to work might actually make some companies more efficient.

It’s a common perception than punctuality, working overtime and on weekends is necessary to stay competitive in the work place, but for Gen-Ys, this is an utterly ridiculous and invalid assumption. And they might be right.

Longer ours makes you less efficient

Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, conducted extensive research as far back as 1926 and discovered the efficiency of his workforce significantly improved by reducing their working week from 6 to 5 days, and by capping their maximum hours to 8 per day. If you think things have changed since then, a more recent study by John Pencavel of Standford University, discovered that the output of an employee drops sharply after a 50-hour work-week, and falls off a cliff after 55 hours, so much so that if someone works 70 hours, those additional 15 hours were shown to produce nothing.

Stop being too busy to take breaks

For many, resting in the office is seen as a waste of time, both for themselves and their colleagues. Gen-Y colleagues might have a different perspective though, as again, resting during the day has been show to improve overall productivity. Alejandra Lleras, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois, [explains that] ( “From a practical standpoint, our research suggestions that when faced with long tasks, it’s best to impose brief breaks on yourself, as brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task”.

Staples, a U.S. based retail giant for office supplies, also conducted related research to determine whether their staff took enough breaks. They found that 66% of their staff worked more than 8 hours a day, and a third never took breaks other than lunch. The primary reason given was guilt, believing that they would be “more productive” if they didn’t take breaks.

Working from a café improves creativity

Remote working is becoming more and more common, and for Gen-Ys, they’re already accustomed to it. You don’t need to work from a cubicle to make telephone calls or reply to emails!

A recent article published by the Harvard Business Review cites two insightful studies, the first by Ravi Mehta of the University of Illinois, discovered that the right level of ambient noise triggers our minds to think more creatively, and that cafes are amongst the most suitable environments for this.

The second was by the BRIK institute, and similarly found that by using a method called EEG to read the participants brainwaves, certain noise levels positively influence creativity, however continual face to face interactions, conversations, and general office disruptions negatively affect creativity.

So next time you think someone’s too laid back, they might just be improving their efficiency, productivity and creativity.

Ewan Cheuk

Columnist writes about lift-style, work , sports in Hong Kong, China,Taiwan. Worked in the media, advertising industry for years.

2 min read

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