How many hours do you currently work? 36 hours a week? 40? Maybe you’re even close to clocking 60 hours? We get it – we all have this tendency to be as effective, productive and creative as we possibly can. We don’t want to come across as disloyal or worse: lazy. So, we keep ourselves busy, checking of as many to-do list boxes as humanly possible. This leaves us exhausted during the evenings and weekends packed with social activities, with little to no time to unwind our brain. This begs the question: is the standard 40-hour workweek still ideal?
10 extra hours of free time
Now, take a minute and ask yourself: what would you do with an additional 10 hours of free time every week? We’re going to go out on a limb and make a few wild guesses: you’ll probably share a coffee with friends; putter around your garden; finally read that great novel, play board games with a nice glass of red; spend more time with your kids; go for a long walk with your dog or pick up running again. Are we close? The funny thing is: these are the kind of activities that can make you more relaxed, reduce your level of stress and give your overworked brain a solid break.
1980s: 100-hour work week
In the 1980s people were used to working a hundred hours a week. During the Industrial Revolution the machinery needed to be tended continuously, so people worked between 14 and 16 hours a day, 6 days a week. And everyone was eager to work– even these long hours, for little pay and in really bad working conditions. American labour unions fought hard to fight for higher pay, fairer treatment, better working conditions and a law that banned child labour. Eventually the 40-hour workweek was ratified in the Fair Labour Standards Act of 1938. Looking back on the 100-hour work week, we’ve come a long way. But the question remains: does the 40-hour workweek still work for us, with burnout numbers going through the roof and tech gadgets and devices keeping us up at night?
Is the golden standard still golden?
Today, the 40-hour workweek has been the golden standard. But to be fair, we all make some additional after-work hours – it’s a bad habit that is hard to break. And, moreover: not every country upholds this 9-to-5 concept of working. According to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), research German workers generally work the least hours with an average of 28 hours a week, meanwhile the American workers clock 37 hours a week and Mexico comes in at number one with putting in 43 hours a week.
fewer hours means increased productivity
Over the last few years, we’ve seen more and more companies around the globe experimenting with trials of 30-hour workweeks, like the firm Perpetual Guardian in New-Zealand or Microsoft in its Japan offices. And also Sweden has been trying out short working hours, all with a positive outcome: less hours lead to an increased productivity. The Guardian reported that the 4-day workweek at the Microsoft office in Japan resulted in ‘more efficient meetings, happier workers and productivity increased by 40 percent.’ Another example is France, where the workweek is officially set at 35-hours and appears to be one of the most productive countries in Europe.
Due to an increased productivity rate, people seem to get the same amount of work done in 6 hours instead of 8, as the Harvard Business Review reports. Moreover, with less working hours employees have a reduced chance of getting ill or to suffer from a burnout. People are able to maintain a better work-life balance and young parents won’t have to choose between having a career or being the stay at home parent. Long story short, this means: fewer sick days, additional monetary savings, more creative insights, increased productivity in the same time-span and happier (co)workers.
30-hour work week try out
Of course, there is a number of factors to consider when you shorten your working hours or the ones of your employees. But you can always start with a short trial phase; cut down on the crazy working hours and grant yourself – and your co-workers – some time to reboot. Create a healthy work-life balance and who knows, it just might be that secret competitive business advantage that will make you or the company outshine everyone else.