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The Economic Case for Time Off : Adam Smith encourages employers to restrict working hours to reasonable limits, for humanity and for profit.
The Economic Case for Time Off

From ‘Wealth of Nations’, by Adam Smith (1723-1790).

Adam Smith urges employers not to tempt their employees to overwork. It leads to burn-out and a loss of productivity; and in the worst case scenario, the grasping employer must invest wholly avoidable time and money in training up a replacement.

WORKMEN, when they are liberally paid by the piece,* are very apt to overwork themselves, and to ruin their health and constitution in a few years. A carpenter in London, and in some other places, is not supposed to last in his utmost vigour above eight years.

Great labour, either of mind or body, continued for several days together is, in most men, naturally followed by a great desire of relaxation. It is the call of nature. If it is not complied with, the consequences are often dangerous and sometimes fatal.

If masters would always listen to the dictates of reason and humanity, they have frequently occasion rather to moderate, than to animate the application of many of their workmen.* It will be found, I believe, in every sort of trade, that the man who works so moderately, as to be able to work constantly, not only preserves his health the longest, but, in the course of the year, executes the greatest quantity of work.

* ‘Piece work’ is employment in which wages are calculated on output - items produced, jobs completed - rather than by hours worked.

* A responsibility that lies with the employer rather than the government, according to Charles Dickens. See our extract The Great Baby.

From ‘Wealth of Nations’, by Adam Smith (1723-1790).

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