Countries With Shorter Working Weeks Are Generally More Productive

Lucy Desai, content writer at QuickBooks, says that on average, in South Africa, workers work some of the longest workweeks at around 2209 hours a year. 18.1% of workers worked very long workweeks of 50 hours or more, which is significantly more than the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) average of 13%.

We have all likely stayed later at work when we have been super busy or had to catch up on work, however sadly, in recent years, long working days and taking work home has become the norm for many employees. Not only is this causing employees to miss out on enjoying the pleasures of life and spending quality time with family and friends, it might not be worth the hassle.

Last year, Microsoft trialled a four-day work week, resulting in a 40% boost in productivity, suggesting that perhaps it isn’t necessary for employees to be putting their life and soul into their job when the same amount of work can be done in a considerably shorter amount of time.

Productivity can be enhanced through industry software, such as accounting software for small businesses, which can help financial and accounting professionals to evolve business productivity. Some businesses may discover that the path to increasing productivity isn’t working hard but working smart.

From the data, as mentioned before, South Africa’s work week is the longest at 2209 hours a year. Considering the overtime workers are putting in, their economy is worth $349.4 billion, the 10th smallest of the countries analysed. South Africans have been hailed as some of the hardest working across the world, with research reporting they are three times more likely to work a 60-hour work week than their American counterparts, despite labour laws forbidding being asked to work over 45 hours a week. However, South Africa’s economy has experienced an upward trend over the last ten years — is this boost from the hard‐working nation, and would it be significantly worse off without overtime?

Mexico worked the second longest work week (2148) with 28.7% working 50 hours or more and Costa Rica came third (2121), however data wasn’t available for the percentage of employees working 50 hours or more. Fourth was Korea (1993) at 25.2%, and fifth was Russia (1972) with 0.1%. Mexico’s economy is worth $1.27 trillion, Costa Rica’s $57.06 billion, Korea’s $1.63 trillion, and Russia’s is $1.64 trillion. Although Costa Rica’s GDP is relatively small in comparison to other countries, it is a small but stable country, which wouldn’t generate trillions of dollars. In June of 2018, South Koreans were forced to cut down on the hours they were working to introduce a better work‐life balance and help boost the falling birth rate. With so many more Koreans previously working 50 hours or more a week than other countries, the GDP doesn’t outrank many others.

Germany works the fewest hours per week at 1362 a year, with 4.3% of the population working 50 hours or more. Considering a significantly lower work week than other countries, Germany’s economy is the third largest at $3.86 trillion. At the start of 2018, millions of Germans won the right to reduce their work week to 28 hours to help them achieve a good work life balance and spend more time with their loved ones and doing things they enjoy. It seems that countries don’t need to work long hours to get more work done — Germany has been recognised as one of the most productive countries with a booming economy despite a cut in hours, striking the ideal work life balance while being 27% more productive than the UK.

The second country to work the fewest hours was Denmark (1392) with 2.3% working 50 hours or more. Third was Norway (1416) with 2.9%, fourth was Netherlands (1433) at 0.4%, and fifth was Iceland (1469) at a higher 15.1%.

Iceland has the smallest economy at $23.91 billion, followed by Finland at $251.9 billion, Denmark at $324.9 billion, and the Netherlands at $902.36 billion. A 2017 report found that Norway is one of the most productive countries despite having one of the shortest working weeks.

Lead researcher of Expert Market, Adelle Kehoe, said: ‘Our data has shown, both this year and last year when we first ran the study, that there is a definite correlation between a shorter working week and productivity.

‘Countries that have shorter working weeks, in general, are more productive, whereas countries which have a culture of presenteeism and long desk hours actually get less out of their teams.’ There’s more to life than work — hopefully, more countries will realise that long hours does not necessarily mean productivity.

Country

Hours worked

Employees working very long hours

GDP

Iceland

1469

15.1%

$23.91 billion

Latvia

1699

1.3%

$30.26 billion

Costa Rica

2121

 (N/A)

$57.06 billion

Luxembourg

1506

3.8%

$62.4 billion

Slovak Republic

1698

4.1%

$95.77 billion

Hungary

1741

3.0%

$139.1 billion

New Zealand

1756

15.1%

$205.9 billion

Finland

1555

3.8%

$251.9 billion

Denmark

1392

2.3%

$324.9 billion

South Africa

2209

18.1%

$349.4 billion

Norway

1416

2.9%

$398.8 billion

Belgium

1545

4.8%

$492.7 billion

Poland

1792

6.0%

$524.5 billion

Sweden

1474

1.1%

$538 billion

Switzerland

1561

0.4%

$715.36 billion

Turkey

1832

32.6%

$743.71 billion

Netherlands

1433

0.4%

$902.36 billion

Mexico

2148

28.7%

$1.27 trillion

Australia

1665

13.0%

$1.38 trillion

Spain

1701

4.0%

$1.4 trillion

Korea

1993

25.2%

$1.63 trillion

Russia

1972

0.1%

$1.64 trillion

Canada

1708

3.7%

$1.73 trillion

Italy

1722

4.1%

$1.99 trillion

France

1520

7.7%

$2.71 trillion

United Kingdom

1538

12.2%

$2.74 trillion

Germany

1362

4.3%

$3.86 trillion

Japan

1680

17.9%

$5.15 trillion

United States

1786

11.1%

$20.58 trillion

 

Quickbooks
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