Muna Al-Fuzai

How many hours do you work per day? Many of us work forty hours a week, but how many of us, whether men or women, have been able to balance between their work and family commitments? How many of us are satisfied with the number of hours they spend at work?

These questions are of concern to millions of people around the world today. The discussion on the subject did not receive much attention from business owners in the past because of the widely spread belief or culture that the employee who spent longer hours in the office achieves greater productivity. But this idea no longer seems sound or completely correct, and therefore the idea of reducing the 40 working hours a week has become a hot topic of debate.

The World Economic Forum was held from 23 to 26 of January 2019 in the Swiss city of Davos, and focused on the causes and solutions to political, economic and social divisions in society. Adam Grant, Psychologist at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, said that reducing working hours makes employees more loyal to their companies, which gives them more flexibility to take care of their lives outside of work. Economists who participated in the World Economic Forum in Davos advised employers to apply the system four days a week.

However, some business owners fear that reducing workers’ hours may create loss of new opportunities for more sales. And in some cases, less working hours could mean less pay because dissatisfied employees may become less productive, and such conditions creates a poor working environment that affect the business.

The average working hours around the world is forty hours per week, but studies showed that Americans work longer hours than many people in Europe and Japan, with many US employees spending 50 hours at work each week. Yet, some American companies and local governments are joining other parts of the world in testing whether a reduction in the number of weekly work hours can boost employee productivity. International data showed that Mexicans have the most working hours in the world, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) figures for 2019.

Reducing working hours may seem an attractive idea for employees, but it is worrying for business owners, especially those who still believe that the employee’s stay in his office, and perhaps for more than forty hours a week, means achievement and efficiency. But the reality is that there are many employees who spend overtime hours, but they are not financially compensated for it. This is because of the power and control of the employer, and sometimes because of the employee’s keenness to complete the work without delay.

I believe that reducing hours in a judicious manner improves the chance of getting the most out of your employees. Because the longer working hours can increase the worker’s stress, and puts him under pressure that reduces productivity.

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) figures indicate that countries with a long working-hour culture often record low rates of productivity and GDP per hour of work. According to the World Economic Forum, academic research supports the view that a shorter working week will make people happier and more productive. But how many institution is ready to take the lead on that?

By Muna Al-Fuzai

muna@kuwaittimes.net