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

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

As Marvel’s first comic book fetches $1.26 million, here are five things to know about the superhero business

Top UN court orders Myanmar to protect Rohingya from genocide

UN rights chief bemoans unilateral sanctions on Venezuela, fearing ‘far-reaching implications’

The Sino-American trade conflict may be resolved soon

What does reimagining our energy system look like?

5G in Russia: a local and global view on the way forward, in association with The European Sting

This app lets you plant trees to fight deforestation

Foreign direct investments the success secrete of Eurozone

Dear Davos: time to declare an emergency opportunity for people and planet

What is ‘South-South cooperation’ and why does it matter?

Viktor Orbán, Hungarian Prime Minister, at a 2015 event in Brussels, Berlaymont. (Copyright: European Union , 2015; Source: EC - Audiovisual Service; Photo: Lieven Creemers)

Hungary and Ireland build front to say no to EU tax harmonisation plan

UN sees progress in fight against tobacco, warns more action needed to help people quit deadly product

Innovative urban financing can make our cities stronger

Europe’s top court hears Intel and sends € 1.06 bn antitrust fine to review

United States: UN chief ‘deeply saddened’ by deadly California wildfires

State aid: Commission approves €200 million Danish loan in support of the Travel Guarantee Fund for travel cancellations due to coronavirus outbreak

Resilience and efficient doctor-patient relationship nowadays

EU Youth Report casts stark light on life for young Europeans

Opening – EP remembers Nelson Mandela and mourns attacks on Roma in Ukraine

This Chinese tech giant’s latest gadget is… a bus

The US Congress and European Parliament vote are TTIP’s 10th round’s lucky cards

CDU-SPD agree the terms for EU’s Banking Union

Human rights breaches in Iran, Egypt and Tanzania

Review on ethics and technological development

Civilians ‘must never be a target,’ says UN in Afghanistan, amid troubling number of casualties during Ramadan

Lockdown is the world’s biggest psychological experiment – and we will pay the price

6 surprising side effects of this year’s global heatwave

Combatting terrorism: EP special committee calls for closer EU cooperation

Fashion’s hot new trend: clothes you don’t need to wash (very often)

EU and Japan agree on free-trade deal and fill the post-TPP void

Economic Outlook: Weak trade and investment threaten long-term growth

Seeing through the mist of myths of Coronavirus

Haitian President at General Assembly calls for essential development aid as UN mission shifts away from peacekeeping

The world’s coastal cities are going under. Here’s how some are fighting back

New UN Syria envoy pledges to work ‘impartially and diligently’ towards peace

Climate change and health: an everyday solution

Libya on verge of civil war, threatening ‘permanent division’, top UN official warns Security Council

5 times people predicted the future and got it really wrong

How revealing the cost of coal makes us all better off

Turning waste into wealth: World Habitat Day focus on cleaning up cities

The digital transformation is a skills and education opportunity for all. Companies must use it

This is the human impact of COVID-19 – and how business can help

Deutsche Bank: the next financial crisis is here and the lenders need €150 billion from taxpayers

Microplastic and nanoplastic pollution threatens our enviroment. How should we respond?

Learn from the margin, not the center: digital innovation with social impact as transformative force bridging digital divide

This is how we can feed the planet while saving the ocean

rescEU assets mobilised to help Greece fight devastating forest fires

UN-based World Summit Award (WSA) presents its master list on digital innovation with impact on society from 24 countries

The Tears of lovely Memories

The Eurogroup+ is born to govern the EU Banking Union

UN chief ‘deeply alarmed’ over military offensive in south-west Syria

TTIP is not dead as of yet, the 15th round of negotiations in New York shouts

We can use plastics to change the world for the better

Reform of road use charges to spur cleaner transport and ensure fairness

Making Europe’s businesses future-ready: A new Industrial Strategy for a globally competitive, green and digital Europe

UN rights experts call on Russia to release Ukrainian film-maker whose life is in ‘imminent danger’

‘Building back better’ – here’s how we can navigate the risks we face after COVID-19

LED lights could stop turtles and birds from drowning in fishing nets

UN chief welcomes establishment of inclusive government in Central African Republic

Largest joint UN humanitarian convoy of the war, reaches remote Syrian settlement

More Stings?

Advertising

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