16 Jul It’s Good for You: Exploring Benefits of a Shorter Work Week
Throughout this summer, we are spending some time discussing the idea of taking Fridays off, a trend called Summer Fridays which is growing in popularity in the US. Exploring this concept begs the question – what are the potential benefits of a shorter work week, not just in the summer, but throughout the year?
Whereas other countries are shortening their work week – 29 hours in the Netherlands and 33 hours in Norway – recent statistics show that at least 40% of US workers work at least 10 hours per day, or over 50 hours a week. Researchers consistently find that employees who are overworked are more likely to develop health issues, from depression and anxiety, to weak immune systems and sleep disorders. With shorter work weeks (and universal health care) perhaps it’s not surprising that Scandinavian countries are consistently ranked as the best places to live, with the happiest residents.
Though many companies are reluctant to offer shorter work weeks in terms of hours, many are now considering offering ‘compressed work weeks’where people work 40 hours in less than 5 days. The benefits of having one less day a week at the office are expansive. Many people argue that not only are there immediate health benefits – from lower stress and spending more time doing enjoyable tasks or taking care of family – to lowering carbon footprints by limiting people’s commutes.
Other writers even argue that shorter work weeks will lead to better job performance, gender equality, and lower unemployment. Statistics show that by overworking ourselves we will suffer further health and well-being issues in the future. The New Dream’s Infographic series from 2013 highlights some of the more immediate health impacts on overworked Americans (see above). If this is the case, then why are so many employers reluctant to address the long work days and weeks? We have to ask ourselves if we value productivity more than the long-term detrimental effects of that productivity?
By taking a holistic and empathetic approach to employment, employers could build an environment of happy and productive workers, ensuring not only the success of the business, but the success of the individuals who run the business.