How many hours should employees work per week? The answer to this question is not as straightforward as it might seem. Yes, although 35 to 40 hours weeks are pretty much the accepted norm, it doesn’t mean its the right or the most effective way, given the current work environment. In fact, 35 to 40 hour weeks come about more as a result of habit rather than design and few employers have asked the question of whether a 40 hour working week is the best format.
So, what is the ideal working week?
Is it 50 or 60 hours a week?
Is it more than 40 hours a week, (which is currently worked by 3 out of 4 Americans)? Or is it more than 50 hours, (which is currently worked by more than 1 in 3 Americans)? Since so many employers use long hours working, surely it must be increasing output and productivity? To the contrary, its actually doing the quite the opposite. For example, studies show that worker productivity decreases by 50% after 8 hours work, and people who work 60 hours a week will see an additional reduction in productivity. As well as this employees who work for 11 hours a day are 2.5 times more likely to be depressed than those who do an 8 hour working day so expect higher absence rates and reduced output in a long hours work-force.
Is It 35 to 40 hours weeks?
Its pretty clear that productivity drops off after 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week, so does that mean that 35 to 40 hour weeks are the ideal working week? Not necessarily, because the make up of the work-place is changing and so are worker attitudes and expectations, meaning there is an increased desire for workers to be able to work flexibly, which could mean job sharing or part-time working. For example, research from the US DOL shows us that there has been a sustained and significant increase in the incidence of both parents working over the past two decades, probably due to economic hardship and the equality imperative which has built a greater demand for flexible working.
As well as this you may have noticed that we are in the midst of a talent war and in many situations its a candidate’s market, and employer’s need to build attractive brands to attract talent. And one of the most attractive potential employer offerings is the ability to work flexibly, (perhaps 20 or 30 hours a week) as shown by studies in the UK and the US.
So offering employees the ability to work flexibly at 20 or 30 hours a week will make your firm more attractive to top talent, widening your potential resource pool, which means you can reduce your empty desk time and hire more effective workers.
So, what is the ideal working week? There’s no easy answer but if you want to be able to attract the cream of top talent in today’s market you would ideally offer a blend of 40 hours and 20-30 hour contracts to make sure you maximize your employer brand and attractiveness to talent in the marketplace.