More and more companies are trying to focus on flexible working and how they can use this to help their employees to have a better work/life balance. Companies around the world are experimenting with reducing the working week, but will it be possible to have a working week that lasts for just one day? Here we look at how employers in different countries are helping their employees to find a better work/life balance and how short the working week can really be in practice.
According to author Tim Ferriss, it is possible to make the working week as short as four hours. This involves outsourcing tasks, reducing the frequency of checking emails, and generally speeding up work to make yourself more efficient. This is probably more realistic for someone who works at home for themselves rather than employed in an office, as many office-based employers would not be able to manage with employees who worked such short hours; however, it should be possible to at least reduce the working week from the current average of eight hours a day, five days a week, with some companies trying to do just this.
Perpetual Guardian, a wills and trusts firm based in New Zealand, decided to conduct a two-week experiment to allow its employees to work four days a week rather than five. Following the trial, a survey of the employees found that almost one-quarter said they felt they had restored some work/life balance, while just under ten per cent said they felt working fewer days had made them less stressed. The company itself said it had not observed any fall in productivity for the duration of the experiment.
Similar experiments have taken place in Iceland and Sweden, with employers not seeing any visible difference in productivity as a result of a shorter working week. In Japan, companies can give their employees a shorter working week by allowing them to arrive late on one Monday a month. This is backed by the Japanese government.
A shorter working week simply is not possible or practical in some industries, particularly where the business is customer-facing, which is why most of these experiments have been just that. Although the welfare of employees improved, there will come a point where shortening the working week is counter-productive.
There is no question that working fewer hours during the week makes employees happier and more productive in the hours they do work. While shortening the working week to just one day seems to be wholly unrealistic, moving to a four-day week or working shortened hours on at least one day a month or week is sure to have a positive effect on our life, health and happiness.
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