Why working a shorter week would make us more productive
Working fewer hours would increase efficiency and benefit the health of workers. So just why aren’t companies eager to commit to a shorter week?
Many social organizations, renowned experts and even one of the richest men in the world, Carlos Slim, have voiced their enthusiasm for a shorter working week, with the aim of improving the lives of employees and boosting the economy.
There are existing success stories to support the move for a shorter week but many companies are still reluctant to reduce their employees’ hours.
Campaigners for a shorter workweek argue that employees should work four, 10 hour days.
A survey by Spectrem Group found that more than 69 percent of millionaires surveyed (those with investible assets of $1 million or more) said they believed the four day workweek is a “valid idea,” in the same way a 2014 YouGov survey found that 57 per cent of people would support introducing a four day working week in the UK.
Experts argue that a reduction in the working week — without a reduction in pay — can provide us with significant environmental, social, and economic benefits. “A shorter working week could improve wellbeing, challenge gender inequalities, leave us with more time to spend with friends and family, more time to actively participate in our communities, and with more free time to spend doing the things we love,” Aidan Harper, assistant researcher at New Economics Foundation, explained to Metro.
The shortening of the workweek, say experts, could help cities and even society in general by reducing traffic issues and energy consumption. “Our society will also benefit as a whole as office commuters and corresponding traffic will be reduced. This will significantly lower environmental pollution, especially in metropolitan areas. Organizations can save on energy bills making the environment more green-friendly,” Pramila Rao, associate professor of human resources at Marymount University, USA, said.
The most recent data from the The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows some correlation between fewer working hours and increased productivity among its member countries, because the five countries with higher productivity levels recorded under 40 hours worked per week. Luxembourg is the OECD country with the highest level of productivity (81.2) and has an average of 36.9 hours worked per week. In contrast, Mexico in 2014 recorded one of the highest levels of hours worked per week (44.7) and the lowest level of productivity (18).
Although there are many groups that support the idea of shortening the workweek and there are many arguments in favor, experts warn that this scheme to work four 10 hour days does not suit all businesses and others say that it could cause health problems for workers, “I hypothesize that shorter hours may well benefit some firms but harm other firms. Shorter hours should result in lower payroll costs for many firms and, in some cases, there will be a negligible loss (or even an increase) in effective output, John implementation are due to political and cultural barriers. As Harper explains, “The major barriers to reducing the work week are not technological or economic, they are cultural and political, as evidenced by the number of organizations and countries moving towards shorter working weeks or more flexible working practices.”Pencavel, author of the paper “The Productivity of Working Hours” and professor of Economics at Stanford University, said to Metro.
Allard Dembe, professor of public health at The Ohio State University, recently wrote an article in the journal The Conversation that explains that there are hidden hazards in ‘compressing’ five working days into four, such as the health effects that can occur as a result of fatigue and stress that accumulate over a longer-than-normal working day (eight hours). The professor adds that for employees who are already suffering from overwork, the additional burden of compressing five days into four could break the worker’s back.
Despite the existence of some arguments against, those who support the reduction of the working week insist that the only barriers to its implementation are due to political and cultural barriers.
As Harper explains, “The major barriers to reducing the work week are not technological or economic, they are cultural and political, as evidenced by the number of organizations and countries moving towards shorter working weeks or more flexible working practices.”
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