Updated: Nov 15
Author: Ema Oberpfalzerova
Date of Publication: 15/02/2023
One of the current “hot trends” at the workplace is definitely a reduction in working
hours, even if that means shorter shifts or a 4-day working week. The usual 40-hour working week dates back to early 1926 when workers of the Henry Ford factory took off Saturdays and Sundays. This way they tried to increase productivity. So, this thought of productivity rise was also considered in the 1960s. Since then, the industry and technological growth have provided a space for bigger flexibility and work-life balance.
Recent studies and statistics
A study conducted in Iceland from 2015 to 2019 followed more than 2,500 workers from various departments shifting from 40-hour to 35/36-hour working weeks. The results showed that the productivity of the majority either remained the same or even went higher. Another 2021 study from Sweden proved the positive impact on employees when working fewer hours. They were less stressed, exhausted and negatively minded. Furthermore, workers confirmed better sleep and family life.
4-day working week
The leader of this “trend” is Iceland, with nearly 90% of the working population having
reduced or modified working hours. As mentioned above, during the years 2015 and
2019, there were the largest pilot hours cut from 40 to 36/35. As this trial was successful, since no compensation steps were made, the majority of the companies remained in this system.
What does it look like in practice?
There are different forms of this shortage, generally reducing the working hours by 20%. The first system could be that the whole company takes the same day off. Secondly, you can let your employees choose the structure that works for them, or it can be in the form of taking two afternoons off. However, the most important fact is that the salaries remain the same.
Shorter working hours
Another optional form is reducing each working day by an hour or two, meaning the working day won’t have 8 hours, but 7 or 6. This "compressed" form of employment is based on proof that the human brain is simply not able to stay concentrated for 8 hours straight. That's why working 6 hours a day has been another trend recently. “When there’s less time to work, there’s less time to waste”, reported Jason Fried, software CEO for New York Times. Thus, his company announced an increase in productivity after applying the 32-hour working week.
Pros of reduced working hours
1. reduced company costs and savings on operating costs (electricity, water, heating,
2. reduced employee cost and savings on commuting or gas costs, vehicle
maintenance costs, etc
3. work-life balance and an extra day to spend with family
4. employee wellbeing and reduced stress, better sleep, higher satisfaction
5. increased productivity and prioritizing the important tasks, less time to waste
1. not completing all work as well as potential difficulties in finishing all of the work
2. issues in logistic and shifting deadlines, rescheduling delivery, etc.
3. customer service but with less time for customers to reach you
4. not compatible with all departments since it cannot be applied to industries such as
healthcare, security or logistics
5. less bonding time and less time for team building in the office
In conclusion, many companies that applied reduced working hours have confirmed
increasing productivity without any loss in expenses. Therefore, experts are expecting a greater rise in this trend to connect organizational objectives and goals. Besides that, fewer working hours are tightly related to the well- being of their employees too. So, it is now the time you considered reduced working hours within your company as well!