Can a Shorter Work Week Make Your Business More Efficient?

The debate of whether shorter work weeks lead to better business efficiency has been the subject of debates for decades, with actual implementation of significantly shorter work weeks beginning 13 years ago in Sweden when Toyota’s service centre in Gothenburg implemented 30-hour work weeks in 2002.

The argument against shorter work weeks have been centred around:

  • Shorter work weeks translate into lower production due to fewer hours put into work.
  • Unnecessary costs are incurred if workers are paid the same salaries for doing less work.

However, research and experiments by employers reveal convincing arguments for shorter work weeks.

Longer work weeks do not necessarily translate to more productivity:

France and Germany are proof of this demystification- being significantly ahead of the UK in terms of output per hour despite having much shorter average work weeks.

Happier staff are more productive staff:

Motivated workers are productive workers. The less over worked and subsequently more rested the worker, the happier the worker is. This was further buttressed by the performances in Toyota’s service centre on the Swedish west coast which reports happier staff, lower staff turnover, and higher profits in response to the implementation of 30- hour work weeks.

Burn out and fatigue lead to sub-par performances:

It isn’t rocket science really. There is only so much the human mind can do, after which it cannot surpass certain performance standards which reduce as time goes on – basically the law of diminishing resources. Well rested workers are generally more productive on average per hour, and are more likely to produce better results than tired, exhausted workers.

Shorter work weeks are actually more productive than longer work weeks:

As unlikely as it seems, reports have gathered that shorter work weeks actually translate to better productive use of time and resources than longer work weeks. According to OECD data on output per working hours across the world’s richest countries, higher productivity correlates with shorter working hours.

Having shifts of part time staff could provide a balance between shorter working hours and pay:

With the reluctance of employers to implement shorter work weeks based on an unwillingness to pay more wages for less work, implementing various shifts of rotating workers could do the trick. This will keep workers rested and fresh, better able to use working hours more effectively, less prone to makes mistakes and costly errors, and yet not be overpaid for putting in shorter shifts.

This sort of attitude of getting more productivity is one that should seem attractive to businesses in the start-up phase, as the cost of employees can have an impact on cash flow. Those who want to see if they have an entrepreneurial mind-set should take this into account before they try to get their idea off the ground.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle is the mental culture which assumes that longer hours translate to more effective business. This is not taking into account the effects of stress, wear, and tear, the increasing inefficiency when human capital are stretched beyond their optimum working capacity, and the expenses involved in recruiting and training new staff- as a result of the higher staff turnover that are a direct consequence of longer work weeks. Shorter, more flexible work weeks are becoming more common, without the feared drop in production efficiency- dispelling the long-standing notion that longer always means better.


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