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How To Achieve the Balance Between Well-Being and Productivity?

After two years of pandemic and social isolation, the increase in flexible work, productivity, and teleworking in the service area was reflected.

The Woman Post | Alexandra Domínguez

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An interesting project, supported by 4 Day Week Global, as an experiment, consists of reducing the working week of three thousand employees to four days without reducing their salary. This recently started in the UK and will run for six months. The program will have the participation of sixty companies.

The objective is to determine if reducing working days is beneficial for the employees by achieving a better balance between their work and personal life. Having an additional day of rest would improve their quality of life. At the same time, the productive level of the company is not diminished.

It is based on the hypothesis that, by reducing working days, the environmental impact is diminished while contributing to the well-being of workers. More hours of family time or other types of activity that contribute to developing other personal activities could be reflected favorably in their productive capacity.

Some economists specialized in the labor area assure that special attention must be paid to the level of productivity; since the benefit must be reciprocal, it must remain at 100%. If productivity increases, the success of the pilot test will be a resounding success. However, working time decreases to 80%.

However, some consider that this test could not be applied in specific sectors such as food, beverages, small businesses, or retail since some functions are measured at a qualitative level and not at a quantitative level, as happens in factories. While the services sector could benefit, given that the tertiary industry represents 80% of the UK's GDP.

The program has the participation of the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford. Among the academics is Brendan Burchell, professor of Social Sciences, who assures that the impact can be positive and encourage more societies to leap in quality.

He will also participate in the Royal Society of Biology trial, from which they ensure that employees will have more autonomy over their time and will be able to determine work guidelines better. The program closely monitors the impact of labor reduction on workers while measuring the level of productivity. For this purpose, all the entities above have been involved in the process, which will provide direct follow-up, tutorials, workshops, statistics, and even access to academic research.

It is also intended to reduce the loss of talent who frequently go abroad in search of opportunities at a time when the internal labor market has reached its lowest level in recent decades, with a figure of 1.3 million vacancies, a figure that exceeds the number of people looking for work.

Among the companies that have joined the pilot program, some are considering the possibility of working several shifts to alternate days off for employees, thus seeking to avoid a negative impact on productivity. In Iceland, for example, a pilot test was carried out between 2015 and 2019. During the study, it was shown that productivity was maintained and, in some cases, even increased. The study was carried out by the Irish Association for a Sustainable Democracy. It was implemented in a group of 2,500 public employees -1% of the country's working population- with a workload of 35 hours per week.

In Japan, a "Labor Reform" project was also piloted, carried out with 2,600 workers from the Microsoft company. According to the results, productivity increased by 39.9%, while the company reduced the cost of printer ink and paper by 58.7%, electricity costs by 23.1%, and 25. 4% of days off requested by employees.

In Gothenburg, Sweden, a nursing sector was monitored. The result showed that 17 new jobs were created to cover working hours. In contrast, nurses who worked fewer hours presented better health conditions, with an increase in productivity reflected in 85% more activities dedicated to patients. However, this meant a rise in economic spending, which is why, for some observers, the balance of benefits for the parties involved was not maintained.

In this regard, Bengt Lorentzon stated that perhaps things work better based on the workgroup to which they belong. In this case, it would be more accurate to aim to improve the environment and working conditions rather than reduce working hours.

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In the Netherlands, the average working hours per week cannot exceed 48 hours on average in 16 weeks; however, production levels are high in some sectors with short hours. In Denmark, the working week is 37 hours, and the average is 33, resulting in very high productivity.

In countries like Greece, working hours are longer and the productivity index lower, which would support the theory that the shorter the working time, the higher the productivity. Other countries are waiting for the results to implement measures that balance well-being and productivity.

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