Economics aside, if longer hours don't necessarily produce more work, and fewer hours (or one less workday) help boost employee health and morale and generate more engagement and productivity, we ought to at least consider the possibility.
Public service announcement: This work week started on a Tuesday. Not Monday. I repeat, Monday was actually a Tuesday.
First and foremost, let us all pause to remember the brave men and women who have fought and fallen for our freedom; after all, that is what Memorial Day Weekend is all about. It's also why most of us enjoyed an extra day to the weekend, a rare-enough sighting that keeps us wanting more and wondering why (economics aside) three-day weekends aren't a thing. Science wonders too, and it has your back.
Roughly 40 percent of Americans have reported that their jobs are "extremely stressful." This type of chronic stress can wreak havoc on your health: sleep problems, mood problems, muscle and joint pain, high blood pressure and obesity have all been linked to high stress levels.
Consequently, those who overwork tend to be less productive and show significantly lower engagement than their colleagues. A recent study from the U.K. and U.S. of roughly 22,000 employees shows more than half of whom reported experiencing high stress levels at the office also reported they were disengaged. To compare, only one in 10 employees claiming low stress levels reported they were disengaged and less productive.
The bad news doesn't stop there: In the U.S. one in every nine employees reports working 50+ hours during the week, compared with one in every 81 employees in Sweden, and one in every 152 employees in the Netherlands. In fact, Netherlands holds the top spot for shortest working hours on average during the week (29), followed by Denmark and Norway, averaging at 33. And when it comes to happiness, nothing trumps the levels of content in the northern European and Scandinavian countries. Coincidence? We think not.
Having said all that, a three-day weekend — or a four-day workweek if you prefer — is often met with mixed reactions from employers (and employees!): the fear of loss of productivity for businesses, and loss of wages for employees. But if employees are less stressed and should be more productive, what does the economics data say?
According to the World's GDP data, the trends vary. According to the numbers, the United States has seen an upward trend in growth and productivity, despite less employee engagement and satisfaction, and interestingly enough, the opposite has happened in European countries, where short work weeks prevail, although other socioeconomic factors may have influenced the trends.
Still, economics aside, if longer hours don't necessarily produce more work, and fewer hours (or one less workday) help boost employee health and morale, and generate more engagement and productivity, we ought to at least consider the possibility.
After all, who are we to disagree with science?