A 50-hour working week is not a badge of honour

Why are many of us obsessed with working such long hours when companies that have given staff extra

Why are many of us obsessed with working such long hours when companies that have given staff extra days off have reported a boost in productivity? - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Why do we think working harder and harder is actually a good thing? Rachel Moore says it's time we realised that doing as many hours as possible is not sensible, it's just plain stupid.

Something has gone horrendously wrong with our attitude to being at work.

Our mindsets have shifted from getting the job done well to making every day an endurance test.

Working weeks are too often spent in a simmering fear of redundancy, constant organisational 'restructures' (ie the cynical process of manoeuvring the unfavoured out so the favoured can progress, often regardless of talent and ability but because a face fits) and endemic insecurity.

Who can do the longest hours – get in earliest and stay the latest, rather than perform efficiently and effectively according to job description expectations – has become the new measure. At some point, hard work became confused with how long we spend at work.

The 50-hour-plus week is, sadly, viewed as a badge of honour. As if it's superhuman and something to be admired.

The people I admire are those who work smarter, are focused, don't faff and prevaricate, accomplishing a star job in fewer than their contracted hours, have the brightest ideas and contributions, and then go off to do something they enjoy while colleagues are 'just getting this done before I go home.'.

Most Read

They're the winners, leaving their exhausted, fed-up, disillusioned and stressed colleagues huffing and puffing their way home late 'to miss the traffic' (yeah right), believing being the last to leave will matter when heads have to roll.

More than 3.3 million people work more than 45 hours a week. That's not working hard, that's working stupid.

Progressive companies – the kind that have leaders not bosses, managers who inspire and build teams rather than rule with fear and sanctions, have spotted the futility in this attitude.

Work isn't about killing people, it's about getting the best out of them, treating them like the responsible adults they are and contributing to their employees' lives, not sucking the life out of them.

These companies believe that the greatest change to working conditions this century will be the four-day week; giving the workforce an extra day to themselves to increase focus, commitment and productivity in the workplace.

And it works for them.

Giving back a day to staff means they have time to do what two-day weekends don't allow. Weekends are never long enough, usually spent doing the mundane humdrum house and life admin work never allows time for.

These aren't the stuck-in-the-past clock-in and clock-out businesses, where staff were production and performance units.

Those companies defined by a rigid hierarchical structure where people daren't voice an idea because it 'isn't my place' or are too terrified to.

Those companies where Mondays are miserable, full of deflated workers dreading a long week, with high sickness rates.

Companies that have introduced a four-day week, where everyone does the same job as they did for the same pay, but with an extra day off every week, have seen an increase in productivity, commitment and contribution.

Staff feel valued and trusted. Business has improved, along with a team spirit atmosphere and work attitude.

It's simple. The old-fashioned management attitude of treating staff like children who need to toe rigid lines, ask permission to leave early for appointments, are watched like hawks and beaten up verbally and publicly for mistakes, seriously affects productivity, inspiration and creativity.

It makes no business sense in 2019.

Treating staff like grown-ups, who are valued and trusted, produce just as much in a 30-hour week as they did in 38 hours, and are happier with it, companies practicing this found.

The first of the big companies to shift to a four-day week reported a 20% rise in productivity, increased profits and improved staff wellbeing

There was no fall in output, reduced stress and increased staff engagement,

A recent trial at a New Zealand financial services company switched its 240 staff to a four-day week last November and maintained their pay. Staff stress levels dropped 16%, work life balance improved 44% and staff commitment, simulation empowerment and leadership scores all improved.

It's about people being the best they can when they're at work – not frazzled and full of resentment. Any so-called 'leaders' who don't understand that don't deserve to build their business on the backs of mistreated staff.

Who didn't look with envy at Norwich accountancy firm Farnell Clarke when it announced its staff would work six-hour days, could choose if they work in the office or at home and had unlimited leave?

What a fantastic team to have got to that point; where the team was trusted not to take the mick.

Society has changed, and the workplace needs to change with it. We achieve everything quicker, being smarter is the watchword, but work is making too many people sick. Prescriptions for anti-depressants and anti-anxiety are rising, and we're more overweight and sedentary

A four-day week could be the answer to redressing work-life balance, giving back a day to address our fitness and health worries, to make us fitter for work.

To guard against complacency and slipping into bad habits at work, staff can have individual plans to show how they will maintain or improve productivity.

A four-day week should be the aim for every company in its business plan.

Why would they not want increased focus and greater concentration among happier and more productive staff, committed to the mission of the company that provided them with better working conditions?