The traditional 40 hour working week is very much ingrained in the psyche of many Western countries, in New Zealand we’ve been working this way for over a hundred years and we celebrate the fact every year on Labour Day; but is it time to re-think how much time we spend in the office?

According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) 2017 Employment Outlook report, out of the 38 featured countries Germany has the shortest average working hours with employees averaging 26 hours per week; several other European countries also have similar shorter working hours, including France, Denmark, Norway and The Netherlands.

So, where does New Zealand rank in the OECD’s 2017 report? Well, we placed #19 with an average of 33.7 hours per week, Australia came in at #26 with an average of 32 hours per week and Mexico took out the #1 spot for longest hours worked with an average of 43 hours per week.

Reduced stress levels, better health (and therefore less sick days), lower staff turnover and improved overall happiness have been reported and an article by New Economics has also touched on another slightly surprising result. It highlights that many of the countries with shorter working weeks are re-known for their high levels of productivity and efficiency and they enjoy a strong if not stronger economy than their 40+ hour counterparts. Does this mean that the proof is in the pudding?

Some companies are already experimenting with shorter work days and weeks, one of the most notable was Amazon who began testing 30 hour workweeks in September 2016, which included a 25% decrease in salary. Closer to home, Perpetual Guardian are currently testing a four-day week with no impact to employee’s salaries, and if all goes well and productivity remains consistent Perpetual Guardian will make this a permanent change from July this year.

If greater productivity is proven to come from reduced working hours then big changes to the way we work may be in store!