Can Working Less Make You More Productive?
Living a balanced life has never been the easiest thing to do, especially when it comes to the demands of working in a modern world that never seems to sleep. That, however, may change sooner than you think.
The case for a 4-day workweek is gaining support around the world, and has already been trialled – with mixed results – in Canada, and countries as far afield as the Netherlands and New Zealand.
Most campaigning and trials have been structured around employees working 10 hours a day for 4 days out of 7. According to Shorterworkweek.com, there has even been support for working 8 hours a day for 4 days a week. The site claims the push for decreased working hours has continued for more than 80 years.
Given the warmer reception the idea of restructuring employment hours received from businesses and governments, it looks like all that time has not been wasted. There may yet come a day when workers around the world can spend more time doing the things they really enjoy, such as spending time with friends and family, playing games at their favourite casino, going to gym, or simply relaxing in front of the TV.
Examples From Recent Years
One of the earliest cases of shorter work weeks being instituted happened in 2008, when the Utah state government introduced set work times at 10 hours a day, from Mondays to Thursdays. The closure of offices on Fridays was ostensibly to help the US state better manage its operating costs. A regular 5-day week was resumed in 2011, when Governor Gary Herbert’s 5-day workweek legislation veto was overturned by the state legislature.
In 2010 and the years that followed, many schools in Hawaii and other US states instituted a week of 4 longer days. 2013 was the year in which then-Gambian president Yahya Jammeh decreed a 4-day week for public servants. Jammeh’s successor, Adama Barrow, changed the law again in 2017, and introduced a half-day’s work on Fridays for public servants.
Positive Results in New Zealand
In February this year, Andrew Barnes, founder of Perpetual Guardian, announced the New Zealand-based company would put a 4-day workweek to the test from March. The announcement was met with disbelief by staff, and interest from other companies looking for ways to ensure their staff are happy and productive.
Barnes later said that the trial had been running smoothly. Apart from newly created workgroups looking at ways of working smarter within the new timeframes, staff had already reported positive changes in their professional and personal lives. Among the executives in New Zealand who showed interest in Barnes’ company’s trial are Yellow’s Darren Linton and Sudima Hotels and Resorts’ Phillippa Gimmillaro.
Saving Canadian Jobs
Shorter working hours are just one of the measures adopted by some Canadian companies in a bid to try reduce the number of job cuts due to economic strains. Other measures introduced by companies include voluntary pay cuts or wage freezes, unpaid leave, and various employee benefits.
A prime example of this was when 300 Sears Canada employees lost their jobs. A month later, the company’s senior management announced its executives had volunteered a 15 per cent cut in their basic salaries in the hope of staving off future job losses.
The move is one supported by the government, including by a Services Canada programme that offers employment insurance benefits to workers who volunteer to work temporarily reduced weeks.
The Dutch Do It Best
Whereas most people think of a shorter workweek as being between 40 and 32-hour weeks, the Netherlands has taken it a step further. Citizens of the tiny European country work an average of 29 hours a week, proving that employee satisfaction and productivity are not mutually exclusive!