Making a case for a shorter working week, where everyone would be healthier and happier.
The Global Wellness Institute recently published the workplace paradox, an article bringing to light the paradoxical nature of introducing a workplace wellness program when employers are expected to spend over 10 hours a day in the office. With the perks of a shorter working week so obvious, why isn’t a shorter working week becoming the norm?
So what are the benefits of a shorter working week?
Working less gives us more time to focus on ourselves, less time to be affected by stress, plus for many happiness means a good work-life balance which a shorter working week would create. A study found that the average 30-something British woman gets just 17-minutes of ‘me-time’ a day, an increase in this, more time to spend with the family all generates happiness.
It’s no surprise that studies show a longer working week of 46 hours or more is linked to higher heart disease risk. Professor John Ashton, one of Britain’s top doctors is an advocate for the four hour week, explaining it reduces stress and help deal with work-related mental health which is a ‘major issue’.
The extra time could also have wider benefits, giving people more time to consider their health they may chose to exercise more and prepare meals rather than opting for the convenient fast food.
Huong Dinh from the ANU Research School of Population Health explains, “Long work hours erode a person’s mental and physical health, because it leaves less time to eat well and look after themselves properly.
Productivity increases (per working hour)
After a certain point during a long day at work we reach a level of fatigue which is detrimental to our productivity.
‘There really is a limit to the amount of time that can productively be spent on sustained intellectual effort every day. Once that is exceeded, more work produces less worthwhile product.’ (The Guardian)
The Guardian captures the problem, ‘Professional athletes have to be careful not to overtrain. Why not professional athletes of the mind and the imagination? Teachers and social workers burn out.’
The effort exerted through intellect has a cap and once you go past this productivity deteriorates, which is why studies are showing people are actually more productive when they work less.
We’re not as tired, more motivated and as a result are more efficient and productive.
In the case of the majority the issue isn’t as substantial, with the average workweek hours of full-timers for the first quarter of 2017 being a very reasonable 37.5. This puts most of us out of risk of the higher heart disease and enough time for self-care and fulfil obligations outside of work.
However, there is still a long-hour culture prevalent amongst certain industries in the UK, where overtime is expected and often for little compensation. The benefits of a shorter working week are clear, we’re happier, healthier and more productive in the time we do work.