I used to ask that question when I interviewed people: “Tell me about your work ethic.” I had hoped to hear someone say something along the lines of “I work smart, not hard. I’m lazy and impatient at heart, so I like to arrange things so I can get work done quickly, and not have to go back and do it again later.” But I never heard anything like that, except once. The vast majority of people said (and say) things like, “I work really hard. I will work myself practically to death, driving myself literally into the ground to get the job done.” My follow-up question was usually something like, “…but why would you want to work for someone who expects that?” Their follow-up answer was usually a lengthy pause, followed by some stammering until I broke the ice with a joke or something. :-)
The one time I heard someone espouse the “lazy and impatient” line, I hired them immediately, and they were great to work with. And highly productive!
It makes little sense to assign value to people based on the amount of time they spend doing something (vs. say, what they do during the time they do spend), but it’s much easier to measure “time spent at work” than anything else. Consequently, “work harder” or “work more hours” ends up being the answer to every question in some companies. It’s sad, really. Time is the one thing that, having been spent, cannot be earned back. People should respect that more.