To work more or to work less – that is the question!
8 hours of work vs 6 hours of work
Let’s think about it! We wake up in the morning and rush to our workplaces. We start working at 8 and finish at around 4:30-5. Then it’s time to get started on the daily chores (raising children, going shopping, doing the housework). Our days consist of 24 hours, but we devote 8-10 of this to being at our workplaces, not to even mention overhours. Can a 40-45 hour working week be paired with enough productivity? Could we work more efficiently if it was only 6 hours?
A university in London conducted research which involved 600,000 workers from Europe to Australia. They wanted to assess the advantages and disadvantages of working more or less. The study proved that those who spend 55 hours working are 33% more likely to suffer from a heart attack or get a stroke than those who only work 35-40 hours weekly. Moreover, if we work less, we are more productive.
The study had a huge influence in Sweden. They realised that concentrating on a given task for 8 hours a day means a massive exertion for the brain and therefore introduced regular breaks and other timestealer activities that are not connected to the task. Not to mention that people failed to manage their own lives after work as there was not enough time and energy left for it. Therefore, during the autumn of 2016, more than 100 companies as well as health centres decided to introduce the 6 hour working day and reduce breaks to an absolute minimum.
The director of one of the companies stated that it is so much easier to concentrate on one’s tasks if one is relaxed. Moreover, it will enable us to work faster and more focused, and upon leaving the workplace, plenty of time and energy is left for recharging our batteries. The company emphasized that efficiency did not decrease but conflicts amongst colleagues did, which can be attributed to a more balanced lifestyle.
The Swedish model is not the first initiative aimed at decreasing working hours. Similar projects had been implemented in the private sector earlier but without the government playing any role. In a Toyota service factory in Göteborg, they launched the 30-hour workweek model 14 years ago, in which the employees work in two shifts (from 6 in the morning till noon and from noon to 6 in the evening). With the changing of the working hours, the speed of delivering services has increased.
Analysing the GDP data published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), experts have compiled a list that contains the average working time per country. However, this does not mean the hours worked in reality. In Hungary, Slovakia, and Portugal, the average working week consists of 40 hours but is exceeded by the practise of Turkey and South Africa, where people spend 49-50 hours at work on average.
Further details can be found here.
The expansion of the Swedish dream
If we read studies and research on the topic, we realise that the reduction of working hours is not a modern trend or an impossible expectation. The system possesses numerous undisputable advantages. People become a lot more well-balanced and productive. However, one should not overlook the fact that not every industry is ready for a change of such a huge scale, partly because of technical limitations. In order for this system to be expanded, more experiments must be conducted to devise a plan for reducing working hours in every sector.
According to an article in “The Business Blog”, it is especially in the creative industries that people’s working hours should be limited to 30 hours; however, in the sphere of physical work, 40 hours are required in order for companies to remain competent. The reason for this is that in the case of many companies, the 8-hour working week cannot be avoided as they do not possess the necessary resources for the appliance of modern methods.
The question of the 21st century is whether the 30-hour working week can gain ground in places outside of Sweden. In the case of certain startups, this way of thinking is already present, but their general application is not widespread. The most important thing would be that working conditions that are favourable for each employee are provided in order to support their achievements both in the office and in their private lives without threatening their health.
Translated by Judit Molnár