Do you feel like you work too many hours? Maybe your work schedule works for you.
In 1930, economist John Maynard Keynes (famous for his Keynesian economy) wrote that your grandchildren’s generation would probably have hours of work only 15 hours a week. As you may have noticed, this did not happen. In fact, the way we used to divide work and life at home has gradually faded, and working hours are no longer limited to 9 am M. At 5 p. M. Or, in fact, at the office itself .
The average British employee worked 37.4 hours a week . Assuming an hour for lunch, it seems appropriate for the type of work About the one Dolly Parton sang about (Unfortunately, something Keynes died too soon to be heard), but it just scratches the surface. We know there are people who work fewer hours (part-time contracts, zero hours) and much more; e.g, some employers encourage you to withdraw from the EU Working Time Directive .
You might think that the reason Keynes’s prediction didn’t come true is that the situation is changing. Despite the automation, there is still a lot to do and very few hours a day. If we do not work hard, our economy will collapse. However, hard work is not a guarantee of a booming economy: the Greeks, What the highlights Forbes , on In fact, they work the longest hours in the EU, averaging 42 hours a week and are not exactly the richest country in Europe.
The Swedish experiment
Sweden is absent from the Forbes list, but if a new one were compiled today, they would be close to the end. Since last week, the Swedes reduced the working day from eight to six hours . Reckless? Not at all – they have both research and direct evidence.
First of all, there are the Toyota service centers in Gothenburg that switched to shifts six hours ago 13 years ago. Now, it won’t surprise you to learn that this has led to happier employees and less staff turnover, but it’s probably more surprising to note that earnings increased by 25% .
«Research has not only found that long hours do not equate to higher production, but often lead to fewer.»
Coincidentally, you might say. The correlation (benefits increase with decreasing hours) is not the same as causation (less work leads to increased benefits). Okay, let’s move on to research, of which there’s a decent amount. First of all, if you forgive a little more correlation, this graph of Economist show that there is a strong link between longer hours and lower productivity, and the link seems to be causal. This summary document from 2011 analyzed the relationship between productivity and long working hours and not only found that long working hours do not equate to higher production, but in fact often lead to less.
The awkward truth
At first glance, this sounds crazy. With more hours, you can do more, right? This is technically true, but combined with the fatigue and limitations of our body, the truth is that just because we have more hours available doesn’t mean we will be terribly efficient at filling them. According to the study, not much is done and you may need to redo what you are doing.
«The link between shorter hours and higher productivity has been observed for more than 150 years.»
Furthermore, this report The European Foundation found that those with flexible hours or «part-time» roles were happier and more productive. Harvard Business Review He even cites a study that says managers can’t tell the difference between those who work 80 hours and those who just pretend. The optimal point, according to the study conducted by the European Foundation, would be 30 hours of work per week. That’s twice as high as Keynes predicted, but significantly less than the Western average.
Don’t hold your breath for short-term changes – the link between shorter hours and higher productivity has been observed for more than 150 years. Parliament passed a law in 1848 that reduced the working day to ten hours and saw a dramatic increase in productivity. In the 1890s, employers reduced the average to eight hours, and production improved again. But then we stopped and the hours gradually increased again.
It will not surprise you to find out that work addiction is very bad for us. Stress is one thing, but one Study at University College London which assessed data from more than 600,000 people, found that working 55 hours or more a week increased the chances of people with a stroke by 33% than those who worked between 35 and 40 hours. In addition, those in the top group were also 13% more likely to develop coronary heart disease. Oh, and I mentioned that scientists have discovered that stressful workplace exhaustion can lead to neural changes that make it difficult to manage stress later in life?
So why do we all work so hard?
«There are many factors at play here: political, cultural, psychological, technological and sociological.»
It is bad for the figurative health of the company and the literal health of the employees and does not really offer tangible benefits. Why the hell didn’t we pay attention to the research and not do something about it?
There are many factors at play here: political, cultural, psychological, technological and sociological. Any of these could be outdated, but together they come as an awkwardly tangled package that is easier to ignore.
Let’s start with the technological issues. On the surface, technology has improved our ability to work efficiently and made everything easier. In 1970, if you were working in an office and something urgent came, you had to be at the office to get the call. Not there? Too bad, call back at 9 am M. It can wait. Today, you probably have a working cell phone, and even if you don’t, you’re probably checking your email for such an eventuality. It probably doesn’t add up to several hours a year overall, but it actually blurs the line between life and home life, as a break no longer feels like a break.
«From a cultural point of view, hard work is intertwined with success and moral character, no matter how valuable the work.»
Then, of course, there are sociological pressures. If you are a manager and you look at your competitors, who work remarkably long hours and are late, will you really be the first to try to instigate a culture change and eliminate the tools early? What happens if it doesn’t work and causes massive or worse losses? It is better to maintain risk aversion and respect the dominant orthodoxy. Similarly, no worker wants to be the one to break up at 3:30 p.m. M., Even if you’ve finished all your work. I just know go Wrong: just writing this article risks painting me like a vagabond who works with aversion, even if I stay awake until I finish it.
That brings us to culture. From a cultural point of view, hard work is intertwined with success and moral character, no matter how valuable the work. Protestantism can no longer be the guiding theological tendency, and the avoidance of eternal condemnation is no longer the leading incentive, but the ethics of Protestant work are alive and well and are often argued to be what needs to be done. the basis of capitalism . This is supported by political rhetoric: how many times have you heard the phrase «working families» during the 2015 general election? The less subtle subtextual significance of «working families» is widely recognized as «deserving.» Now, can you imagine the same politicians advocating for shorter working hours? Their rivals will eat them alive.
In fact, everything is a little silly and not just because scientific research suggests that it would make fiscal sense or because there is much more to life and a working society than work. Accepting human constraints with shorter hours would mean that companies that couldn’t really cope would have to hire more staff, which would reduce unemployment, which would mean more treasury taxes. Okay, that’s deliberately simplistic, but you get the idea.
All of this will have been carefully examined by the Swedish government before the six-hour initiative becomes law, and hopefully other nations are following it closely. Otherwise, we are likely to keep bumping our heads against a brick wall to appear superhumanly productive, even if our biology assures us that, in the end, we are only fooling ourselves. And maybe our managers.