Written by Camille Lin, HR consultant and trainer specializing in the prevention of psychosocial risks for Groupe-conseil Perrier, and creator of the podcast Panser l'entreprise.


Did you know that Jack Ma, one of the richest men in China and founder of the Alibaba platform, has said that working 12 hours a day in a company is a blessing? According to him, if you work 6 days a week from 9 am to 9 pm, you're lucky!

And he's not the only one to think like that. Other managers, and perhaps you who are listening to me, sell the glamour of hard work and have a particular love for the culture of overwork.

If that's the case.... you're wrong!

Well, it's true that at first sight, you might think that working 12 hours a day could have advantages for the company, the employees and the customers.

  • Companies can operate longer and, above all, produce more

  • Staff can have access to potentially higher salaries (I did say potentially)

  • Customers can have better access to goods and services!

What more could you ask for? Looking at it this way, Elon Musk was almost right when he said that no one has changed the world by working just 40 hours a week, so you might as well put your heart and soul into your work!

Yeah.... Except that... changing the world has little to do with the number of hours you work and everything to do with the impact and quality of that work. But that's something we often forget!

What companies tend to focus on, encourage, and value are all those people who stay in the office until 9 pm. At the same time, you'll tell me it's so much more impressive to be in the office at 7 am, to leave very late, to show that you're there and send emails every weekend than to be someone who takes breaks and stops work at 5 pm.

And frankly, if the person wants to invest so much and work more than 50 hours a week, why discourage them? Why shouldn't we find ways to ensure that all employees have the same desire?

Well, for several reasons:

  • Firstly, because as a company, you'll make more money in the long term! Because you'll have fewer sick people and fewer absentees. Yes, you should know that studies have shown that overwork like that promoted by Jack Ma kills people.

  • The second thing to know is that a 2015 study published in the journal The Lancet, stated that people who work more than 55 hours a week have an increased risk of stroke and coronary heart disease, compared with those who work 35 to 40 hours.

  • And the last thing you need to know is that the amount of time you can spend at work doesn't allow you to do much more. According to John Pencavel, a Stanford economist, after about 48 hours a week, a worker's output drops sharply. Other research seems to confirm this finding. So while at first you might think that overworking is a good idea to give an initial burst of activity, it's essential to bear in mind that people who work more than 55 hours a week perform less well than those who go home at a normal time and rest.

Of course, everyone's needs are different, and Musk's schedule or Jack Ma's may suit them. But the health risks of overwork and sleep deprivation are real, and it's much harder to change the world if you're sick or dead...

Camille Lin
Panser l’entreprise

Camille is a 17th Floor partner
HR consultant and trainer specialising in the prevention of psychosocial risks for Groupe-conseil Perrier, and creator of the podcast Panser l'entreprise.

With a dual master's degree in HR management and organisational change, Camille puts her skills to work for companies that want to put people at the heart of their strategy.

Her experience in the prevention and management of psychosocial risks in the workplace has been put to good use in a wide range of situations, including toxic work climates, series of unexplained departures, tensions within or between teams, and stress experienced by first-level managers.

Knowing all that, doesn't it make you want to take a little break? Let me know in the comments below!

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