June 2nd marks a peculiar holiday known as National Leave the Office Early Day which sheds light on a very real and ongoing discussion about the physiological and psychological benefits of adopting shorter workweeks and why less might equal more.
What Is National Leave The Office Early Day?
Be sure to mark a very special day on your calendars this coming June as National Leave the Office Early Day looms ever closer. This peculiar annual holiday falls on June 2nd and was founded by Laura Stack, an employee productivity expert in 2004.
Mrs Stack created the occasion to raise awareness for the benefits associated with shorter work weeks and to demonstrate that making incremental adjustments in how one approaches traditional work can increase productivity and overall well-being.
Less Is More
More time spent in the office does not necessarily correlate to high productivity. Statistics from Stanford University show that prolonged work does increase fatigue and risk of burnout and that overworked employees are less productive than employees working an average or typical working week.
With the advancements of technologies such as laptops, smartphones and portable WiFi that make work accessible 24/7, most workers around the world are now extending the average workday beyond the confines of their offices and bringing their work home.
The Call For 4-Day Work Weeks
The introduction of campaigns to reduce the time spent at work is not new. For the better part of half a decade, trade unions across the globe have been rallying in front of governments for them to adopt 4-day work weeks with the same pay.
Improvements in technological applications have resulted in tedious, mundane and time-consuming tasks being automated and completed faster, more reliably and more efficiently. In addition, further advocation for shorter workweeks stems from studies that have shown a positive correlation between longer work hours and burnout.
Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand-based company, has been trialling 4-day work weeks and concluded promising results. Not only did productivity amongst employees remain the same, but psychological variables such as job satisfaction, teamwork, work/life balance, and company loyalty also increased exponentially. In addition, Perpetual Guardian saw a 45% decrease in work-related stress amongst employees.
A 4-day workweek is not as drastic as it sounds. The evolution of working practices has shifted immensely over the course of two centuries. In the 19th century, the average expected working week was 100 hours; by the mid-20th century, it was reduced to 40. Therefore, the next shift to 28 hours is not outside the realms of impossibility.
Productivity Around The World
An editorial study of the world’s most productive countries published by The Times further illustrates these results. Productivity was calculated by dividing each country’s GDP by the average number of hours worked annually by all employed citizens.
The most productive countries were Scandinavian regions such as Norway, Denmark, and their European neighbours Germany and the Netherlands, who combined, averaged 27 work hours a week. On the other hand, Japan, a nation known for its culture of overworking, ranked 20th out of 35 countries for productivity.
It is imperative that the leaders of tomorrow find a harmonious work-life balance. Working from home and the dependence on portable technologies have become increasingly popular in the wake of COVID-19. The perception of what productivity is, how to measure it and how to optimise and increase it has inevitably become blurred. Whether working more hours or less or completely disregarding time spent in the office entirely; the discussion of productivity will be a continued discussion as we move into a post-pandemic world. Furthermore, flexible working will be at the forefront of workplace evolution and National Leave Work Early Day is a catalyst to explore this revolutionary model of work.
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