Shorter Work Hours Don’t Mean Happier Employees

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South Korea recently implemented the Five-Day Working Policy, which makes Saturday an official non-working day and cuts weekly work hours from 44 to 40. Less work, more play, right?

Not necessarily. The intentions behind the move were pure: people would have more time to relax, the country’s leisure economy would blossom and workers would no longer be exhausted from their extended hours and might be spared high rates of job injuries.

Alas, that wasn’t exactly what happened.

Robert Rudolf, a researcher at Korea University in Seoul, looked at the results of a highly comprehensive national survey of urban Korean households, called the Korean Labor and Income Panel Survey, which questioned residents between the years 1998 to 2008. According to those surveyed, the policy did not result in greater life satisfaction for men or women, although women report liking the measure a bit more. Women tend to struggle the most with the burden of the work-life balance, and therefore actually did see benefits from less hours at work. However, the relief from having more hours at home was offset by greater stress at work, since the hours were fewer but the demands either remained unchanged or increased.

The study, which was published online in the Journal of Happiness Studies, suggests that either shorter hours are not providing the benefits they’re supposed to, or work stress intensifies when production hours are cut. Either way, the shorter work week seemed to be a bust from the satisfaction perspective.

So are long work days not so bad after all? That’s not so clear either, but the answer may depend on the type of work you do. If you need to be creative, lunching with colleagues and taking social breaks can be a boon, while the same doesn’t hold if you’re an accountant and need to focus and pay attention to detail. Work hours are also heavily influenced by culture; in the U.S., people are generally encouraged to take a break for lunch during the work day — to ease just the tensions that the South Korean policy was hoping to address. For more tips on how to get the most out of a work day break, read our suggestions, here.

39 comments
AsadAliKhatri1
AsadAliKhatri1

The dinner should be your biggest meal. It will consist of your chosen meat, and a cup of vegetables. 2 day diet

JakDown
JakDown

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coach_samh
coach_samh

@LahibBaniSakher Research has shown the number one motive for happiness in employees across generations of workers is, recognition.

fifo_12345
fifo_12345

@Ahmadoovich أكيد راح يدورون عمل جزئي بما ان عندهم وقت راحه راح يستغلونه بشغل ثاني علشان يكسبون مال أكثر ^^

alfahad100
alfahad100

@Ahmadoovich الفرحة الوحيدة لهم بتكون رواتبهم بتزيد من العمل بالوقت الاضافي. قابلت كوريين يعانون من قلة الاجتماعية والراحة غالب اوقاتهم عمل.

wa7ed_ta3m
wa7ed_ta3m

@BahabriSa @salamalwail احتراف العمل ليس بطول الدوام انما في تهيئه الموظف و المميزات و الادارة

YazeedAlAhmed
YazeedAlAhmed

@Ahmadoovich نحتاج قرار مماثل فالعمالة عندنا سمحت بإنهاك "المتاجر" بساعات عمل طويلة وعلى مدار الإسبوع.

MARZOQALMAKLAFY
MARZOQALMAKLAFY

@BahabriSaهؤلاءناس تحترم الانظمه والوقت وكل شي ينظمه ك انسان! بينمانحن تشبعنامن ورثنة الوظائف!لافيه ناس بهدماتتقاعدترجع للعملاعطومجال لغيركم

Naifalmalki222
Naifalmalki222

@BahabriSa @salamalwail كم نحن بحاجة إلى مثل هذا الإدمان وهذه الثقافة والتي هي بالفعل من سيجتث الفساد من جذوره فإحترافية العمل اساس

Drmajed2011
Drmajed2011

@Ahmadoovich الله يشفيهم نتمنى ان يستعينو بالخبرة السعودية في منع حدوث هذا الادمان فالوقاية خير من العلاج

s_fouzan
s_fouzan

@BahabriSa @Tareq_H ساعات العمل في أوربا باتت أقل من 35 ساعة وذلك لزيادة الإنتاج ولإعطاء فرص للعاطلين

CoastOf
CoastOf

@BahabriSa الغير مسلم يفكر ان الله خلقه للعمل فقط في هذه الحياه.

bojimbo26
bojimbo26

I do zero working hours ( retired ) and I am very happy . My time is my own .

JasonSins
JasonSins

@TIME @TIMEHealthland that's BS.. I worked 50+ hrs a week 5 days a week and I now work 4 days 40 hrs exactly and I'm waaaaaay happier

jcsangmin93
jcsangmin93

@TIME @TIMEHealthland thats exciting :) but i am not. i am more happier and satisfaction now ~ anyway, thank you for survey that my country

suztino
suztino

@TIME Good to know I've been doin it right all this time. :D

ruraynor
ruraynor

I went from art university where I spent 10+ hours a day in the studio Mon-Fri, plus another 8 on Sat, to working from 12:30-20:30 Mon-Weds and I have to say I've never felt better. I feel extremely liberated, more sociable, happier generally. Okay, so I don't earn a great wage but I have time for money saving measures like making meals all from scratch and walking everywhere, and I have enough to live on. Can't recommend it enough.

mandycat
mandycat

" .. in the U.S., people are generally encouraged to take a break for lunch during the work day .."

It's quite obvious that the writer of this article hasn't worked in Corporate America recently, if ever.  Entire industries are profitable on the back of unpaid overtime.   Burn 'em and churn 'em is the new corporate mission statement.

Tareq_H
Tareq_H

@s_fouzan @BahabriSa هل مستواهم في العمل وجودته انخفض يا ابا أريج بسبب قصر المدة؟

Wonko_T_S
Wonko_T_S

Where does it say they had less work ?

Headline says "Shorter Work Hours Don’t Mean Happier Employees"

s_fouzan
s_fouzan

@Tareq_H @BahabriSa لا يا طارق بل إرتفع المعدل أكثر مما تتوقع وفي ذات الوقت أعطوا فرصة للعاطلين! الإتجاه في العالم المتقدم تقليل ساعات العمل