We all like finding our flow and feeling productive but Britain is facing an increasing problem with overworking. According to Relate, 27% of people work longer hours than they’d choose and report that this is impacting their health. In fact, overworking results in physical health problems like poor sleep, heart disease, and diabetes, as well as mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and a worse memory.
More and more people are discussing the benefits of a shorter working week. In other European countries, like Sweden, shorter working weeks have been successfully employed. And many of us consider the self-employed lifestyle a dream, where you’re free to choose your own hours.
So let’s take a look at shorter working weeks. What exactly do they offer for you and your employer?
Better for your health
In Britain and America, employees are frequently expected to work way beyond what their contract specifies. Workers are often asked to give up their free time to work over 50 hours a week, whenever their boss asks them to. With little to no boundaries in place, these unrealistic expectations are taking a toll on the health of workers.
In addition, countries that practise shorter working weeks tend to have higher rates of happiness and their workers book less time off sick.
Anyone who’s ever enjoyed a three-day weekend knows how valuable that extra time feels. After two days with loved ones and family, and finally getting your household chores done, an extra day feels like it truly belongs to you. Extra time off helps to reduce stress which, in turn, improves physical and mental health overall.
More stuff gets done
There’s one big reason why organisations are reluctant to offer shorter working weeks, and why so many of us overwork: we believe that more time spent on work means that more work gets done.
In fact, longer hours do not necessarily equate to productivity. Our performance suffers heavily when we are tired, stressed out, or depressed. This means we end up spending longer on tasks and what we produce isn’t as good as it is when we’re healthy.
Longer hours don’t equate to productivity
Researchers have found that a shorter working week improves efficiency and productivity by improving employee health - and by boosting motivation. Workers get more done, and to a higher quality, because the sense of control over their own time is motivating. There’s also a sense of urgency about a four-day week that encourages efficiency without being artificial or overwhelming.
Plus, having extra time outside of work means you get more done in your spare time, too. This allows workers to fully focus on their job while in the office, which produces better work than just putting in more hours.
A more diverse workforce
Some people can’t manage full-time hours. This could be due to family obligations, commuting time, or other responsibilities. A shorter working week as standard means that employers have access to a more diverse hiring pool.
There are a lot of talented workers out there. Their availability doesn’t diminish their ability. Today, businesses that hire freelance and part-time workers improve the diversity of their workforce. These businesses have employees with a greater range of perspectives, skills, and experiences to work from. A shorter working week for all encourages this same attitude - and its benefits - for all organisations.
It’s good for the environment
Shorter working weeks don’t just benefit employees and employers. They’re also good for the planet! Countries with shorter working weeks tend to have reduced carbon emissions. This makes sense: less commuting means less pollution - especially when we consider rush hour traffic jams!
Some scientists have suggested that energy use could be cut by up to 20% simply by having a shorter working week. Carbon emissions are reduced when we aren’t commuting as much, and offices also use less energy as they aren’t running for quite as many hours.
Feel more fulfilled
Shorter working weeks provide employees with more free time, which they can spend in ways that are meaningful to them. This can provide a greater sense of fulfilment, similar to how people feel when they retire.
Basically, shorter working weeks encourage improved work-life balance. You have the time to do what you want outside of work - and in return, your time in the office is spent focused on your job instead of daydreaming about the weekend.
This can help people to reconnect with their work. When you feel productive and energised at work, it’s easy to remember why you love your job. This boosts your sense of purpose which has positive effects on your wellbeing, health, and productivity. It also reflects well on businesses!
It’s good for the community
When you have more free time, you get to spend more time in your local community. Although modern Brits spend less time in our communities than we used to, community plays an important role in our health and wellbeing.
When we feel connected to our community, we feel less alone, more supported, and happier. These positive feelings have a ripple effect through the rest of the community, too. Community both supports us and allows us to support others, creating a positive environment for everyone involved.
Workers are happier
The most important benefit of a shorter working week is that it makes workers happier. We enjoy having more free time to pursue what matters to us, and we thrive when we aren’t overworked or burnt out. But most of all, workers appreciate feeling like their boss trusts and respects them.
Having control over your hours isn’t just an excuse to do less work. Aside from the health and lifestyle benefits, it’s also a sign that your employer believes you can work hours that suit you whilst also doing a good job and supporting the company.
This is a massive boost to morale and self-esteem, and tends to result in workers feeling more connected to their work and organisation.
So what do you think? In Britain, four-day working weeks still sound radical but other European countries have been making steady progress in this area. Research supports the health benefits of a shorter working week but many people - including employers - remain skeptical. Do you think a shorter working week could work in Britain?