According to Eurostat, British full-time employees work the longest hours amongst all European countries, averaging nearly 43 hours per week. However, the results of the longer work days do not seem to fulfil expectations, and the level of productivity in many British companies is not satisfactory.
Statistics from 2017 revealed that the United Kingdom is the 12th country with the worst life-work balance worldwide. Moreover, for 59% British employees, work is the main cause of stress.
Over half a million adults suffer from work-related stress. The most common are problems related to concentration, sleep and appetite disorders, constant feelings of frustration and irritability, decreased self-esteem, and alcohol abuse.
From Overworking to Burnout
Overworking increases the level of stress and exhaustion, which, when it persists for a longer period of time, can lead to a burnout. More and more British employees are experiencing the symptoms, and unfortunately do not receive sufficient help to deal with this. Furthermore, overworking increases the risk of dangerous physical and mental diseases, such as anxiety, depression, obesity, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
The statistics for businesses are also alarming. In the financial year 2016 – 2017, over 12 millions work days were lost exclusively due to sick leave caused by stress, anxiety, and depression. This equates to 9 days off per year per employee, and means the loss of millions of pounds.
According to the Australian National University, if the work week is longer than 39 hours it can become dangerous for human health. A change proposed by the British public is to reduce the work day to 7 hours in order to boost both employees’ health and productivity.
7-Hour Work Day as a “Win-Win” Solution
According to a survey conducted by YouGov, the majority of British employees consider a 7-hour work day as the most productive. It is also the most optimal length from both work efficiency and work-life balance perspectives. From a practical point of view, reducing the length of a work day to 7 hours is rather realistic to implement, especially for companies working longer than 8 hours daily.
Shortening work days may bring numerous benefits to employees and subsequently to businesses. The upgrade to employees’ quality of life can directly influence their work performance, providing even more profits for the businesses, namely, better focus and creativity, improved time management, as well as increased efficiency and effectiveness.
Essentially, employees will be capable of fulfilling the same tasks in a shorter period of time. For some business sectors it would mean the ability to decrease work hours without recruiting additional staff.
The Experiment That Confirmed the Theory
The experiment in reduced working time was conducted in the medical care sector in Sweden. Swedish nurses stated that shorter work days had significantly improved both their private lives and work performance. They also observed an improvement in their general health condition, which was confirmed by the financial departments: the number of days lost due to sick leave decreased remarkably.
Due to industry specification, with hospitals operating on a 24/7 basis, the employers had no other option but to increase the labour force to compensate for the shorter working hours. However, these additional costs were very close to generated savings from the decreased rate of sick leave.
7-Hour Work Day vs. 4-Day Work Week
Currently, the topic of shortening the work week to 4 days is also being discussed. This could create a dilemma: If anything ought to be changed, which solution will be the best?
From a business efficiency perspective, shorter work days are more beneficial on daily basis. The level of employees’ ability to focus starts decreasing already after 6 hours, and their productivity keeps getting lower with every following hour.