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  • 10.28.04

Asleep at the Wheel

Sure, we’ve all flirted with brief moments of desktop narcolepsy (say, after staring at that screen 13 inches in front of you for 13 hours straight). But at least a head falling on the keyboard will result in nothing more than a few embarrassing typos and white-collar bruises. Imagine the consequences if you were a doctor and PowerPoint presentations were replaced with live human beings?

Sure, we’ve all flirted with brief moments of desktop narcolepsy (say, after staring at that screen 13 inches in front of you for 13 hours straight). But at least a head falling on the keyboard will result in nothing more than a few embarrassing typos and white-collar bruises. Imagine the consequences if you were a doctor and PowerPoint presentations were replaced with live human beings?

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This is exactly the case: today a Harvard study reported that medical interns were more likely to make mistakes when working a 24-hour shift than a 16-hour shift. While working longer shifts (as if 16-hours isn’t long!), the study revealed, the interns made ” five times as many diagnostic errors and 36 percent more significant medical of all kinds.” scary, yes. surprising, no.<>No one should be expected to perform 24-hours a day with caffeine as your replacement for quality REM. While this raises all sorts of questions about work-life balance and sanity, it raises a larger questions for managers: Do you load up your employees to the max at the risk of losing quality work (and happy employees) or do you recognize our limits as humans, and align your expectations accordingly? Have you taken a moment out of your 70-hour workweek to think about the expectations you impose on your employees and what you might be sacrificing?

About the author

Danielle Sacks is an award-winning journalist and a former senior writer at Fast Company magazine. She's chronicled some of the most provocative people in business, with seven cover stories that included profiles on J.Crew's Jenna Lyons, Malcolm Gladwell, and Chelsea Clinton.

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