Karoshi is a Japanese word, which means ‘death from overwork’— it was invented in the 1970s to describe deaths caused by work-related stresses and pressures. Many people worldwide are obliged to work long hours and sometimes do two jobs in order to pay their rent and children’s school fees and put food on the table; unfortunately, they end up spending too much time in the office away from their loved ones, just to provide for their needs.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a radical transformation in the workplace. Many employees were able to work remotely and working hours were reduced to avoid spreading COVID-19. These options are now becoming part of the mainstream—but not at all workplaces. This new experience has proved and convinced companies and employers that an employee does not have to stay eight hours at the office to be productive. Of course, this does not apply to all types of jobs.
What if you can work for only four hours daily, spend more time with your family, and be more productive and happier, while being paid the same salary? This will be the case of citizens in Qatar after the cabinet there approved a draft decision on the terms and conditions of a part-time system at government agencies, whereby the number of workhours per week are reduced by half. Qatar’s aim with this decision is to attain family stability and more productivity in the work field.
In Kuwait, to boost women’s productivity, give them greater comfort and ease their great social burden when they go out to work, a proposal was discussed to establish nurseries at government and non-government workplaces for female employees. Article 25 of the labor law stipulates working women must be given two hours daily to breastfeed during work, and the employer should set up nurseries for children under four years of age at workplaces where the number of female workers is more than 50 or the number of workers exceeds 200. Unfortunately, till today this proposal hasn’t seen the light of day.
Experts believe that working fewer hours leads to happier, healthier and more engaged workforces. Research shows that people get more done when they work fewer hours, and less done when they work longer hours. I believe that a healthy, friendly and fair environment makes employees love their jobs and be more productive and loyal to the company. It enhances creativity and makes people grow in their careers. Conversely, a toxic environment and long hours of work that are not productive make you depressed, miserable and unwilling to contribute or produce.
A very interesting study done in 2021 that followed Swedish workers showed that reduced working hours reduced stress, exhaustion and negative emotions. Another study in 2017 showed that cutting working hours by 25 percent improved sleep, while research from the 1990s showed that working only six hours a day improved workers’ family lives. In some countries, they have adopted the four-day workweek policy, where you reduce your working hours by 20 percent.
Overall, flexible working hours and a relaxed environment at any workplace lead to work-life balance, strengthen family ties, make people happier and fewer sick leaves are taken. In addition, the carbon footprint is reduced, along with the traffic that employees face every morning.