Tokyo/Washington | The fact that excessive working hours cannot be equated with limitless productivity is more than well known to personnel with international work experience In Japan, for example, long working days are part of everyday life, which leads on average to 340 working hours more per year compared to a 40-hour week – and yet the workload of a major German bank in individual departments remains the same as in the domestic market. Time is not the only relevant component of productivity, but time efficiency is also important.
Microsoft conducted an experiment in Japan last summer Five consecutive three-day weekends were granted to the workforce. Revenue per employee increased by 40% during the experiment. In addition, significant savings in electricity and paper costs were achieved. However, it is probably too early to make a final assessment, as other factors may also be decisive for sales growth. But such experiments must be intensified in order to approach the question of whether a shorter working time might also be able to decisively improve time efficiency. Last year, a New Zealand company with a similar experimental setting also came to a positive result in terms of productivity.
What is clear is that long working hours cause fatigue. Physically and mentally. If recovery times are too short, mistakes happen and the speed at which tasks are completed decreases. In addition, very long work shifts are more likely to result in idleness. For example, a delivery service can only deliver as much food as is ordered and can only deliver if something is ordered.
So what has become clear is that a number of pioneering projects are underway around the world. The starting points for reducing working hours are not only a reduction in weekly working hours, but also the granting of more vacation days. France, for example, has a 35-hour working week and 36 days of paid annual leave legally enshrined and yet has a very high level of productivity per hour for industrialized countries. This should give thought to countries such as Japan, but also to the US, where long working days and little vacation are the daily schedule.
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