In Iceland, several trials were conducted testing the effects of reduced working hours (40 to 36-35) on 2,500 participants from 2015-2019. The results revealed that it led to increased employee productivity, better quality of work, and improved employee wellbeing. But why would having less time get more work done?
Working smarter and maximising time
Working fewer hours is a call to work smarter and reduce time wasted but cutting unnecessary tasks. This can be explained by British historian C. Northcote Parkinson’s ‘Parkinson’s law’. If there is less time to complete work, you become more inclined to be more productive since there is less time. Then you can better prioritise your tasks outside of work for improved work-life balance. For example, some participants said they had cut out coffee breaks to remain focused on work. Others adapted to shorter working hours by thinking of creative ways to complete tasks more efficiently.
Chance to spend more time doing non-work activities
Fewer hours allow for people to spend more time with others and do other tasks outside of work. Participants said the reduction in hours allowed them to participate in home responsibilities, exercise, and spend quality time with family and friends. This reflects a change that allows for less stress and overall improved well-being.
Better rested and more sleep
Participants explained that being able to have more time to rest and sleep made them feel more respected as individuals, not just machines that can work at 100% capacity for long hours.
One thing is for sure, the crisis Covid-19 has brought to our world has left us reconsidering workplace norms. With millions of people working from home since last year, more companies are becoming more flexible. The false idea that working longer hours automatically translates into better quality of life must be reflected on.