A Shorter Week Could Prove Beneficial For All

Jason's Ticus's favorite picture of a guy at workAs Americans, we pride ourselves on hard work. The very idea is assumed to be part of the American fabric and is a major fault line in political debate. The fact is, we work more hours than any other developed nation in the world. Yes more than Japan and the French and even the English. However, recent studies show that we may be killing ourselves in the process, which has many of our friends across the pond advocating for and adopting a shorter work week.

What the study has found is a direct correlation to stress and heart disease in those who work extended hours. In many cases, doctors have even linked such strain to increased risk for strokes, amongst other things. The need to perform and produce along with access to employees at every hour–with the advent of cell phones, emails, and social media–have resulted in more people putting in overtime and paying for it, in apparently very harmful ways. As such, more individuals are raising concerns and pressuring their politicians to introduce legislation that will ease demands and reduce the stigma of working less in exchange for a better health and work-life balance.

Of course initial arguments against this concept are rooted in the apprehension that less work will mean less productivity or more plainly, less profit. However, studies from early adopting countries like the Netherlands and Germany have proven that such isn’t the case, even going as far to show that the very opposite is true: less working hours is directly correlated to better productivity, let alone better health, which should be the focus. Still, despite these findings there is backlash and concern for how to implement such practices and its effects on the economy. A lot of the opposition is rooted in tradition, but there are many benefits that come with adopting this policy which could prove beneficial to the American workforce.

For starters, shorter working hours could lead to more equal employment opportunities for everyone. Hiring more individuals and evenly distributing workloads provides a real chance to decrease the rate of unemployment. Similarly, it increases overall morale and productivity, resulting in even better employees. There are also huge factors which are typically overlooked in the debate, such as gender equality. Less working hours for men–who make up a large majority of those expected to work longer–could result in shared responsibility in the home, in terms of child care, and balance out the opportunities currently available for women with children. There is also the “green” benefits which come from a shorter work day. Global warming is an increasingly important issue; reducing the carbon footprint by limiting office time is undeniably a step in the right direction.

So, a lot of the work is now left to legislators to decide whether sustainable business is something that will define American life anytime soon. The research is there, the benefits and examples are plentiful. My opinion is always to improve ways in which we can healthily sustain the present and provide better opportunities for those to come. It remains to be seen whether this is something our officials will come to prioritize as well.