Is it possible to work less and perform more

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In Denmark, working late makes a bad impression on bosses and colleagues, due to the deep-seated work-life balance. Can you imagine something like this in your country?

Danes work an average of 33 hours a week despite the fact that the statutory working hours are 37 hours, according to the OECD. This is one of the factors that makes the Danes one of the happiest people in the world.

However, in many cultures, such as North American and Latino, it is still well seen to have long hours of 8 or more hours a day. In fact, it is estimated that during the home-office period or in teleworking format, if it is not properly regulated by companies, an average of two more hours per day is worked.

And that’s the point to talk about productivity, that’s what it’s all about: are we productive because we work longer hours, or could we do the same, and even better in less time?

This specific case serves to illustrate: in August 2019, almost 2,500 Microsoft employees in Japan participated in an experiment to reduce working hours.

They worked only four days a week, with Fridays off. The result measured was that productivity increased by 39.9% and a balance between personal and professional life was favored.

Working eight hours a day comes from dividing the day into three parts of 8/8/8: eight hours to sleep, eight to work and the same for free time.

This scheme was originated in 1856. Further back, around 1825 in industrialized countries they worked about 82 hours a week from Monday to Saturday: it was a great advance compared to the 12 hours from Monday to Sunday that they used to work in the fields. In few cases, as in the Spain of 1595 with King Felipe II, it was accepted to work eight hours throughout the week.

So , does productivity increase or decrease by reducing the working day? What remains in evidence is that the eight-hour shift from Monday to Friday produced centuries ago a gradual improvement in hourly production, although it would not have been effective without the industrial revolution of that time, for example, the case of the powered loom. steam-originated in the mid-1750, and evolved in 1850 and then 1890-as a contribution to industrialized tasks.

Today, current world conditions will imply a new transformation, perhaps with shorter days or hours, more flexibility and the possibility of teleworking as a permanent or hybrid instance, combined with face-to-face.

We are seeing the emergence of what many envision as a fifth era in humanity, where many jobs are going to be automated and others, directly eliminated.

The possibility of continuing to produce and carry out work practices under new parameters will depend on the preparation and adaptability for new environments, both for companies, governments, organizations and workers. The world is transformed, and it is unthinkable to continue under the same schemes of centuries ago.

A first step in many countries is the implementation of the 32-hour workday; This topic is extensively investigated in different latitudes, since each one has its peculiarities and it might not be feasible to apply it in a generalized way.

Although there is consensus in going towards fewer hours, teleworking, face-to-face in a reduced and minimal format, and new skills of leaders to lead teams in totally different environments until recently.

The results of the experiences indicate that productivity increases because the worker feels happier and a certain release of excessive workload, without seeing his salary compromised.

Even other investigations speak of diminishing inequality. From a health perspective, working fewer hours produces less stress, improves sleep, primary bonds such as family and friends are solidified, and people are more rested and better predisposed.

For those who have permanent employment it may be a good idea. The problem is represented by the self-employed , those who earn their wages every day with their hours: if they don’t work, they don’t get paid. Worldwide it is estimated that a self-employed person works more than 9 hours a day, including in many cases on weekends.

In the public sector there was an experience in 2007 in Utah (United States) where the working day was reduced, although already in 2011 after the measurements, citizens received worse services, which would imply hiring more officials and technicians to fill these shortcomings.

That is to say that in the public sphere there is much to be analyzed, because, in short, the support of public employment is paid by all the private ones out of our own pockets.

Analyze the contexts and culture of the company and adapt it to the new format.

Thoroughly study the pros and cons of these measures, including the economic-financial variable, which will be the one that ends up defining their viability so that companies can sustain themselves.

Create internal regulatory frameworks for how these measures will be implemented, in what terms – generally gradual -.

Do test groups for, for example, three months in a row, with clear indicators to evaluate the evolution of the reduced working day.

Promote task automation and skills development for telecommuting and productivity with fewer hours worked, responsibility, commitment, and consistency; communication, interaction and complementarity.

Redesign the operating schemes of the companies, adapting them to the new forms that they implement. This includes that tasks will be completed on short-time hours, and overtime may no longer exist as a common measure for everyone.

Open permanent channels of dialogue in the company where voices from the different sectors participate, through mediated processes, to agree on best practices, internal regulations, measurement of results and permanent monitoring of the effectiveness of the measures to reduce working hours.

Know that it is a progressive process that cannot simply be executed by decree; rather, the final implementation will take a few years.

Detect new talent suitable for this work format; in addition, to work intergenerationally to fill the gaps that will arise between the old and new models.

By implementing shorter hours, leaders need to learn to trust and delegate more to their teams, focus on effectiveness and not just the bottom line, and definitely support work-life balance.