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

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

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

ECB ready to counter the rise of the euro?

US and Mexico child deportations drive extreme violence and trauma: UNICEF

This young scientist is tackling food insecurity for the world’s most vulnerable groups

Nicaragua must end ‘witch-hunt’ against dissenting voices – UN human rights experts

Who will win the AI race? If countries work together, then the answer could be all of us

Africa Forum aims to boost business, reduce costs, help countries trade out of poverty

Here are six bold ideas to accelerate sustainable energy innovation

FROM THE FIELD: Photos highlight agony of West African civil wars

Oslo leads the way in ‘Breathe Life’ campaign for cleaner cities in climate change era

Syria: UN-backed watchdog says chemical weapon ‘likely used’ in February attack

ECB: The bastion of effective and equitable Europeanism keeps up quantitative easing

We can end TB right now. Here’s how

A skills gap is jeopardizing efforts to end energy poverty

Syria: WHO appeals for funding to sustain critical health care for millions trapped by conflict

Intel, Almunia and 1 billion euros for unfair potatoes

European Commission: the LED lights of your Audi A6 shall save our planet

Changing for the change: Medicine in Industry 4.0

Can elections in Italy and Germany derail Eurozone?

First-ever global conference of national counter-terrorism chiefs will strengthen cooperation, build ‘resilient’ States, says top UN official

Informal meeting of heads of state or government, Sibiu, 09/05/2019

Bahamas: ‘Clock is ticking’ to help those who lost everything in Hurricane Dorian, says UN

China and UK relations post Brexit as EU addresses Chinese takeovers

Gaza probe finds ‘reasonable grounds’ Israeli forces committed international human rights violations

India’s strategy in space is changing. Here’s why

Boat made of recycled plastic and flip-flops inspires fight for cleaner seas along African coast

Yellen and Draghi tell Trump and markets not to expedite the next crisis

Three ways the Fourth Industrial Revolution is shaping geopolitics

Prosecution of Paraguay judges over peasant ‘massacre’ ruling could undermine rule of law: UN expert

Electronic cigarettes: is it really a safe alternative to smoking?

What business leaders can learn from jazz

U-turns on Global Compact ‘reflect poorly’ on countries concerned: senior UN migration official

We must stop choking the ocean with plastic waste. Here’s how

The three sins the EU committed in 2015

The challenges of Chinese investment in Latin America

Investing in rural women and girls, ‘essential’ for everyone’s future: UN chief

TTIP 9th Round marked by American disappointment: Will some optimism save this trade agreement?

Governments should renew efforts to reform support to agriculture

New Zealand can improve well-being through better policymaking and reforms to housing and migration policy

The psychology of pandemics

3 ways activists are being targeted by cyberattacks

Venezuela migrant crisis begs a ‘coherent, predictable and harmonized’ response: UNHCR

The EU approves a new package of budget assistance to the Republic of Moldova to support rule of law and rural development reforms

Britain in chaos: May stays as Tory leader and PM but none can defuse the Brexit time bomb

Cameron’s “No Brexit” campaign wins top business support as Tory front breaks

Is euro to repeat its past highs with the dollar?

Give a chance to the brothers of Ailan: reception of refugees in Greece

MEPs reject making EU regional funding dependent on economic targets

Why the agtech boom isn’t your typical tech disruption

3 of Jack Ma’s best pieces of advice

UN, Somali Government seek $80 million in immediate relief for flood-affected populations

Greenpeace’s saints and sinners in the tech world

G7: A serious setback hardly avoided in iconic Biarritz

Deal on faster exchange of non-EU nationals’ criminal records

Financiers can turn the world into a dirty and dangerous place

Parliament compromises on Banking Union but sends market abusers to jail

EU members commit to build an integrated gas market and finally cut dependency on Russia

Is the European Banking Union an impossible task?

Malaysia can show the way towards a holistic model for human rights

A Sting Exclusive: EU Commissioner Mimica looks at how the private sector can better deliver for international development

WHO and UNICEF in campaign to protect 1.6 million in Sudan from cholera

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