Amazon will soon launch a pilot program that offers select employees a 30-hour work week. The few dozen employees participating in the program will continue to receive full benefits and 75 percent of the salary of their full-time counterparts. This type of flexibility is commonplace in small startups, but extremely rare in large corporations like Amazon. The trend has business leaders everywhere asking themselves: “Could a 30-hour work week work for us?”
What are the benefits of working fewer hours?
Americans work more hours per week, take fewer vacation days and retire at a later age than anyone else in the industrialized world, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But is this a bad thing? After all, the United States didn’t become the wealthiest nation in the world by accident. Would working fewer hours mean having to relinquish that reputation? It depends on how productive we are during all of our time spent at work.
According to Gallup’s State of the American Workforce report, only 30 percent of employees in the U.S. are engaged — meaning they are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace. Thus, the real question becomes: can Americans become more engaged and productive by working fewer hours?
Multiple experts claim the answer is ‘yes, they can’. Keep reading for some of the reported benefits of a shorter work week, and how it can work for you:
1. Working less is better for your health
It’s no secret that a high level of stress is linked to obesity, depression, weak immune system, trouble sleeping, muscle and joint pain, etc. And the fact that 40 percent of Americans describe their job as “very” or “extremely stressful” means there are way too many people suffering these ailments as a direct result of their work schedules.
Additionally, employees that work more than 11 hours a day are 2.5 times more likely to suffer from depression and more than 60 times more likely to develop heart disease, according to the Center for a New American Dream.
Conversely, it should come as no surprise that taking ample vacation time is linked to improved mental, decreased risk of heart disease and also improves satisfaction with relationships.
2. Lower chance of burnout
Of course, certain trades are exceptions to this rule (such as truck drivers) but for the most part, optimal productivity isn’t a direct correlation of a long workday. For jobs that require a significant amount of cognitive fortitude and focus, there’s a limit to the number of consecutive hours humans can perform at a high level.
In fact, the percentage increase of job burnout for people who work 60 hours or more a week is 230 percent compared to those who work 40 hours per week. Further, 92 percent of workers believe that some vacation is necessary to avoid burnout.
3. Increased productivity
In his study “The Productivity of Working Hours”, Professor John Pencavel discovered working longer hours increases fatigue and stress, leading to a greater probability of errors and accidents that will decrease productivity. Numerous studies indicate that when we’re exhausted, we tend to misread those around us in a more negative way. We may perceive a positive tone of voice as neutral, or a neutral expression as negative, etc. We also have difficulty controlling our emotions when we’re fatigued, and may be likely to lash out at perceived aggressors.
Impaired judgment is another risk of workplace fatigue. Workers with a high level of superiority are called upon to make numerous important decisions in a day. If they’re lacking in the sleep department, their ability to make decisions effectively will suffer.
If you’re interested in experimenting with a 30-hour work week for some or all of your workforce, there are a number of helpful resources for tips on doing it effectively. If it’s simply not feasible for the type of product or service you provide, then check out these tips for creating a work culture that prioritizes your employees’ health, wellness and overall performance.