For years, if not decades, we have been changing our work culture. Terms such as “work-life balance” and “burn-out” are playing an increasingly important role. But do considerations such as the four-day week really bring anything? Or is the idea to work less are they too beautiful to be useful? The research organization Association for Sustainability and Democracy (Alda) apparently asked itself this question and looked for an answer in the course of a large-scale experiment.
… falls in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10) under “Problems relating to difficulties in coping with life” (Z73). It occurs when the work is no longer satisfactory, the employee no longer develops professionally, feels overloaded and is dissatisfied with the work that he or she once enjoyed.
Working less: can it work?
In collaboration with the British think tank Autonomy, Alda has published a report in which it cites several pilot projects. All of them address the issue of whether less work could produce the same or even better results. In the period between 2015 and 2019, they were carried out partly nationwide, partly limited to the capital Reykjavík.
The weekly working hours of 2,500 employees were reduced from 40 to 35 or 36 hours – without any associated wage cuts. The result: “an overwhelming success”.
“In both studies, many workers expressed that after starting to reduce working hours they felt better, more energetic and less stressed, which resulted in more energy for other activities such as sports, friends and hobbies,” the published report said . “That then had a positive effect on your work.”
Against burnout: “Benefits for physical and mental health”
Essentially, the authors of the study identified the following effects:
- Less stress at home as more time is available with partner or for activities at home.
- More time that is spent with extended family and friends.
- More time for yourself, be it for hobbies, passions, other interests or just to relax.
- More time for housework and domestic activities during the work week, which frees up time on the weekend and improves its quality.
- Men in heterosexual partnerships took on more household responsibilities and shared the work more fairly.
- Positive effects on single parents, a population group that is often acutely “time-poor”.
- Positive effects also on those who did not directly work less, such as B. the extended family and friends who now had more contact with the tria participants.
It is also important “that the widespread benefits for physical and mental health that we have described here of the study participants are maintained over the long period of the study”.
This “resilience in combination with the widespread introduction of short-time work contracts among Icelandic workers” gives hope for transformative long-term effects for the health of workers. These could be attributed to less stress and burnout, as well as improved work ethic and wellbeing.
Consequences of constant stress
But the stress of too much work can not only affect your performance. Although it leads to concentration difficulties that could interfere with your professional life, it can also have health consequences.
Such a persistent state of activation can lead to exhaustion or even burnout. In addition, according to the insurance company Ergo, chronically stressed people are more susceptible to heart attacks and strokes.
Companies learn their lessons
Since the completion of the experiment, around 86 percent of the workforce in Iceland have been working less, according to the Alda website. “The productivity and the range of services remained the same or improved in the majority of the test workstations.”
Employee wellbeing has also improved dramatically on a number of indicators. In addition to perceived stress and burnout, this would also include health and work-life balance. It remains to be seen whether other countries in the world will also follow this example. Besides your working hours, proper nutrition also plays an important role in your well-being.
Source: Association for Sustainability and Democracy (Alda), Ergo