Home office. Crédito: Rawpixel/Unsplash

Survey suggests reduced work hours may increase productivity

From the eight hours spent at the workplace, only a third of them is truly dedicated to work. Research identifies the main distractions and suggests new paths to companies

Initiatives are still far and apart, but alternative work experiences are gaining traction. Shared parental leave, children in offices, home office and pet day have been adopted in attempts to make the workplace more pleasant for those in need of flexibility. Also, the workload must be redesigned.

A survey conducted by vouchercloud in UK asked 1,989 office professionals from different productive sectors across the country: “If you had to state a figure, how long do you think you spend productively working during work hours on a daily basis?” The answer was startling: 2 hours and 53 minutes was the average. But what would the respondents be doing for the remainder of time?

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With that in mind, Perpetual Guardian, a company which manages trusts, wills and estate planning, has adopted a temporary alternative schedule: 4 days, 8 hours. Over March and April of this year, the company located in Auckland, New Zealand, gave its 240 employees the chance to do their tasks in less time, improving their work-life balance, with no payment reduction.

The result, published in NZ Herald, showed that 78% of staff said they could manage work-life balance, an improvement of 25%. There was also a decrease of 7% in overall stress levels with no prejudice to productivity. Since the reduced workload did not impact the financial results during that period, the Council is to decide whether to implement such measure permanently.

Another trial with the same approach comes from Germany. Last year, Rheingans Digital Enabler, an information technology company in Bielefeld, reduced its work hours to 5, keeping staff full wage, same vacation period, starting to work from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. During that time, personal activities, private calls, long chatting and coffee breaks are discouraged. Other companies across the country also experimented with reduced work hours.

Legislation in Brazil and worldwide

The International Labor Organization (ILO) states that in Latin America, Middle East and Asia, legislations determining over 42 work hours on weekly basis prevail. Conversely, in Argentina, the maximum workload is 48 hours, and in Mexico, 42. In the US, it's 38 hours a week. As for Europe, 40 hours a week, on average, are the norm. In the UK, the legislation allows 48 hours, and 35 in France.

In Brazil, the Federal Constitution of 1988 established 44 hours of work per week, with the option of 2 compensated overtime hours per day with a surplus of 50% over the wage agreed upon. But some economic sectors stick to their own agreements. Bank employees, for example, work 30 hours per week. Lawyers, 40 hours. However, healthcare professionals adopt 12-hour shifts, and some of them report working 36 hours with no rest breaks.

Since the Labor Reform approved in December 2017 by the Senate, employment contracts may become more flexible and the law changes possibilities substantially. The workday may extend to 12 hours with rest breaks, provided it abides by the weekly 44-hour limit (or 48 hours, counting overtime). Payment of minimum wage is no longer mandatory for performance-related pay, home office becomes formal and outsourcing is now legally allowed for core activities. Trade unions have been working on reduction of work hours based on researches, as those aforementioned.

Thus, the discussion on more efficient work hours is still open. What about you? Do you think you would work more efficiently if your work hours were shorter?