Study: Today's Americans work more than medieval peasants

Americans are working more than ever, but not necessarily working better. That's the conclusion of research originally released years ago showing the average modern day American works more hours annually than the average British peasant did in medieval times. The most recent data from 2015 shows that still holds true, although the average annual work hours have declined in the last 30 years.

The numbers are not surprising to Daren Martin, speaker and workplace culture expert, who blames the increasing rat-race mentality in our society. "People leave nine unused vacation days on the table every year, and when they do go on vacation they're obsessively checking e-mails," says Martin. "People are working longer hours, but in terms of fully being engaged, only a third of the workforce is showing up...a lot of people are kind of 'working,' but they're mailing it in."

Martin tells companies they would get more productivity out of their employees by working them less. "The data shows that when you actually have R&R, when you actually have some wind-down time, you perform at a much better level in a wide variety of jobs," he says. In particular, he believes it is important to take your vacation time and unplug from work life.

 Some companies are getting the message, scrapping set vacation time and instead letting employees have the freedom to take off when they want. One such example Martin cites is Netflix. "They tell people we expect you to act like a big boy or girl, you're going to do your job, and as long as you're performing we want you to take a break...we want you to go to your kid's game in the middle of the afternoon," he says.

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