Rethinking your shift: Do more hours mean greater productivity?

Whether you work remotely, freelance or salaried, it's easy to think that the more hours you work, the more productive you will be. Surely it's just simple maths! The more hours you put into your work, the more you'll get done. Right?

While that seems pretty straightforward, it's an equation that doesn't always add up. There's an old saying which might apply. 'You need to work smarter, not harder'.  That might sound like a load of buzzwords, but it's right on the money.  But how exactly do you 'work smarter'?  Is it a case of rethinking your working hours altogether?

British people work hard – but what’s getting done?

British working statistics are pretty bleak. Recent data suggests that UK workers spend much more time at the office than those elsewhere in Europe.  In fact, statistics show that we Brits work two and a half weeks longer than those in the EU.  Research shows that this equates to British employees working for an equivalent of £5,000 more each year than the continental average.

However, European workers are, on the whole, much more productive.  Analysis shows that Irish workers, while operating on just over 39 hours a week, are 62.7% more productive than British employees.  The correlation is pretty staggering.

So what's to blame?  Are UK workers simply getting nothing done in the time they overwork?  Not at all.  One of the key factors could well be stress; that's stress from overworking, which leads to lower productivity.

Taking a freelance approach

Productivity is difficult to harness if you work for a company which is tightly-wound.  In many cases, salaried workers simply have to deal with the tools they are given, and operate to the rotas expected of them.  Add in stresses of travel, workplace issues such as system issues and even office politics, and you have an environment which might struggle to encourage productivity.

With freelancing, however, you have the power to 'work smarter'.  In a day to day role, it's tougher to find ways to leapfrog through your work.  As your own boss, you're able to set your own hours, your own breaks, and your own working environment.  This can also apply to remote working.

But, taking the freelance approach isn’t an excuse to get lazy.  Seasoned freelancers are able to work smartly by calculating how long a task may take them.  For example, a content writer on fivesquid may know how fast they can type, and how long it will take them, roughly, to undertake research.

This way, freelancers can easily manage their time and boost productivity.  By working remotely, or working freelance, you have the power to source your own tools and systems.  If you work from home, you won't have to worry about travel. What's more, if you want to do graphic design in your pyjamas, you're free to – providing you offer your clients top-quality results.

Boosting productivity while working freelance

But what if you’re struggling with productivity as a freelancer?  Are you finding that you’re putting endless hours into a job, or a project, and are struggling to get anything out?  Oddly enough, one of the things you can do is work in the opposite direction.  You can timetable yourself.

Working efficiently as a freelancer isn't just about calculating the work you can do, and in how long. It's about being disciplined.  Regardless of the work you have to do on any given day, you should earmark working hours and stick to them.  Even if you work from home, regiment a schedule.  If you finish early, fantastic!  You can either concentrate on personal projects, or take a look at work for the next day.

Timetabling works for freelancers because it allows them to organise break times and lunch periods they can stick to.  Providing you apply enough self-discipline, you will find that you can get through all of your work for a day and more besides.

The future of working smart

Not everyone has the privilege of being able to work smarter.  Some of us have restrictions in place which can prevent us from being flexible.  However, the freelance approach certainly helps.  Regiment your time, reward yourself, and don’t be tempted to use free time you create for leisure.  Be inspired to work on your goals, to train, or to delight new customers!

Productivity is something we all chase, and it helps if you're passionate about your work.  For thousands of freelancers and remote workers, working smarter is just a timetable away.