Working fewer hours makes you more efficient. Here’s the proof

_UN Habitat 2018

(UN Habitat, 2018)

This article is brought to you thanks to the strategic cooperation of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Briony Harris, Formative Content

Happy, committed and productive. That is how most companies would like their staff to be. But few companies would go so far as giving their workers one day off a week in order to achieve it.

That, however, was the approach of the New Zealand will writing company Perpetual Guardian. The firm has just completed an eight week trial, giving their 200 or so employees an extra day off every week, while all pay and employment conditions remained unchanged.

The results speak for themselves. Despite the reduced hours, workers were 20% more productive and much happier. Chief Executive Andrew Barnes called the experiment an “unmitigated success”.

The experiment was measured by Jarrod Haar, Professor of Human Resource Management at Auckland University of Technology. He found job and life satisfaction increased on all levels, both at home and at work, with employees performing better and enjoying their jobs more than before the experiment began.

The findings were exactly as the firm’s Chief Executive Andrew Barnes had predicted. Indeed he says the decision to test the new way of working was “the right thing to do”, after looking at several global productivity reports.

The experiment has many implications, reigniting questions about productivity and a culture of long working hours, as well as the way in which part-time workers are valued and rewarded.

All hours aren’t equal

One thing that is already clear is that longer hours do not necessarily mean greater productivity.

South Korea, for example, ranks near to the bottom of OECD countries for labour productivity despite having a culture of working very long hours. Similarly, within Europe, Greece has one of the longest working weeks, but comes out bottom in the OECD’s measure of GDP per hour worked.

Not all the hours worked contribute the same to GDP
Image: Statista

Japan is another example of a country where a culture of long working hours does not tally with increased productivity. Japan is now deliberately cutting down on overtime, and using tactics such as turning the lights out at the end of the working day, in order to reverse this trend.

A long day’s work

There have also been a number of trials which look at increasing productivity by shortening the working day rather than the working week.

In Sweden, for example, the government has trialled allowing workers at a retirement home to work six hour days. Although the employees reported an improved quality of life, with less stress and more time to spend with their families, it was also an expensive experiment for the local council who had to hire extra workers to make up for the shortfall in hours.

Iceland conducted a similar trial, allowing some Reykjavik city workers to reduce their working week by four or five hours. In that experiment, productivity continued at the same level, meaning costs remained the same as well. The employees also had greater work satisfaction and fewer days off sick.

These two studies suggest that it may be the nature of the work which is critical in deciding whether reducing the length of the working day is cost-effective. For shift workers such as nurses, security guards or careworkers a continual presence is needed, meaning the employer will need to find somebody else to cover the jobs.

But for office workers it may be a case of Parkinson’s law which states that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” Or to put that a slightly different way, workers will become more efficient if there is less time to complete a task.

Ironically, of course, part-time workers are often paid less than their full-time colleagues, even though many working parents will also recognize the truth that they achieve in four days what others do in five.

Part-time work can also help increase the diversity of the workforce, and is reported to be one of the reasons behind online retailer Amazon’s experiment with shorter days.

The quest for work-life balance

Helen Delaney, a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland Business School says the success of the Perpetual Guardian trial in New Zealand was down to the involvement of staff in planning the experiment.

“Employees designed a number of innovations and initiatives to work in a more productive and efficient manner, from automating manual processes to reducing or eliminating non-work-related internet usage,” she told the Guardian newspaper.

The company’s chief executive is now going to discuss with his board whether the four-day week should be introduced permanently.

Meanwhile government policy-makers would also do well to consider the results when they are looking at how to both increase productivity and improve the nation’s work-life balance.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the European Sting Milestones

Featured Stings

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Berlin vies for a Germanic European Central Bank

Is sub-Saharan Africa ready for the electric vehicle revolution?

First-ever World Braille Day underscores importance of written language for human rights

Educational disadvantage starts from age 10

External action: more funds for human rights, development and climate change

We need a global convention to end workplace sexual harassment

How cities are failing to be inclusive – and what they can do about it

EU to spend €6 billion on youth employment and training futile schemes

TTIP’s 11th round starts in Miami but EU-US businesses see no sunny side

MWC 2016 LIVE: Mobile Connect availability hits 2B

Thursday’s Daily Brief: Albinism, displacement in Central America, family-friendly nations, updates on the Gulf and Darfur

The MWC14 Sting Special Edition

Why will Paris upcoming “loose” climate change agreement work better than the previous ones?

Mental Health Policy, a significant driver for growth

We’ve lost 60% of wildlife in less than 50 years

IMF: How can Eurozone avoid stagnation

Why medical students decide to study abroad?

Stronger European Border and Coast Guard to secure EU’s borders

Greece returns to markets at a high cost to taxpayers, after four years out in the cold

Backed by UN agency, countries set to take on deadly livestock-killing disease

Female African coders ‘on the front-line of the battle’ to change gender power relations: UN chief

Refugee crisis update: EU still lacks solidarity as Hungary and Slovakia refuse to accept EU Court’s decision

How cities can lead the way in bridging the global housing gap

Khashoggi murder trials must public and meet international standards, UN expert urges

Main results of EU-Japan summit which took place on 25/04/2019 in Brussels

How smart tech helps cities fight terrorism and crime

Cocaine and opium production worldwide hit ‘absolute record highs’ – major threat to public health says UN study

New identity cards deliver recognition and protection for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

Migration and rule of law on next ACP-EU Parliamentary Assembly agenda

The UK remains in the EU until a new Brexit date is set

Syria still suffering ‘staggering levels’ of humanitarian need, Security Council hears

How to have a good Fourth Industrial Revolution

Children who exercise have more brain power, finds study

The Commission favours the cultivation of more GMOs in Europe

Dual Food Quality: Commission releases study assessing differences in the composition of EU food products

Corporate tax remains a key revenue source, despite falling rates worldwide

Afghanistan: top UN official denounces ‘extreme’ suffering of civilians in Ghazni

UN rights chief ‘strongly’ condemns ‘shocking’ mass executions in Saudi Arabia

Working Muslim women are a trillion-dollar market

New Zealand has unveiled its first ‘well-being’ budget

G20 starts to tackle inequality

These are the benefits of learning a second language

Erdogan vies to become Middle East Sultan over Khashoggi’s killing

Facebook: MEPs demand a full audit by EU bodies to assess data protection

These countries are leading the charge to clean energy

Statement by the Brexit Steering Group on UK government White paper

Will AI make the gender gap in the workplace harder to close?

UN recognises role of sport in achieving sustainable development

Eurozone close to agreeing on a Banking Union

IMAGINATION, FACTS AND OPPORTUNITIES – THE UNLIMITED POWER OF CHINA

Restore hope that peace will come to the Middle East, UN negotiator urges Security Council

The power of digital tools to transform mental healthcare

Post-Brexit muddled times: the resignation of UK’s top ambassador and Theresa May’s vague plans

What is the UN General Assembly and what does it do?

MEPs Anti-fraud votes for more votes?

More women than ever before are running for political office in the US

Impossible Brexit options: WTO or new referendum?

Peru should help more young vulnerable people into work

Employment and Social Developments in Europe: 2018 review confirms positive trends but highlights challenges, in particular linked to automation and digitalisation

We can feed the world in a sustainable way, but we need to act now

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s