People’s work hours should be reduced in order to boost productivity, a new study has found.
Researchers in Japan revealed long working hours can harm team productivity and brought work reforms back into debate.
Looking at a Japanese architectural design and consultancy firm responding to the 2008 global crisis, the study concluded that “less is more”.
Working shorter hours was found to boost productivity due to workers recovering from fatigue and coming into work with more energy and increased concentration.
‘It wouldn’t hurt businesses’
The study acknowledged that the society agrees on the physical and mental health benefits on shorter working hours, but raised and dismantled a common concern that this could undermine business competitiveness.
It gave the example of working during recession, when layoffs can cause workers to overwork themselves to avoid being made redundant in an unstable market.
But in Japan, where the culture promotes a high level of job security, productivity was found to be increased by reducing workers’ hours rather than laying staff off.
The firm analysed had a low turnover rate during the 2008 global crisis by following this model, team and individual productivity increased, and fewer mistakes were made at work.
By comparison, the new analysis found overtime caused a drop in productivity, rather than the opposite – and the more overtime an individual did, the more harmful it was to the whole team’s productivity.
Scotland’s four-day working week trials
The findings come after last month it emerged that a majority of working people in Scotland favour the introduction of a four-day working week if their salaries remain unchanged.
Roughly 80 per cent of respondents to a poll said they would willingly reduce the number of days they worked – as long as pay was protected.
Shorter working times are believed to reduce gender inequalities and improve wellbeing, while 65 per cent of those surveyed suggested a four-day week would benefit productivity.
The poll was commissioned by the IPPR Scotland think-tank, and took responses from more than 2,200 adults.
It indicates a high level of support for pilot schemes to be run by the Scottish government exploring changes to the working week, with 88 per cent saying they would happily take part in the trial – which Holyrood is backing with a £10 million pot.
Rachel Statham, co-author of the report and senior research fellow at IPPR Scotland, said: “The Scottish government is right to be trialling a four-day week because today’s evidence shows that it is a policy with overwhelming public support, and could be a positive step towards building an economy hardwired for wellbeing.”
A YouGov poll in 2019 found three-quarters of people supported the idea in the UK, while a years-long trial in Iceland’s public sector was recently judged an “overwhelming success”, leading to increased productivity and wellbeing.