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Is Less Work Better Work? A shorter working week from a managerial viewpoint

Briem, Katrín and Ólafsson, Þorvaldur (2015) MGTN59 20151
Department of Business Administration
Abstract
Visionaries around the world are advocating for a shorter working week, and there is a reason behind it. Long working hours have been shown to impede productivity while a reduction in working hours increases work-life balance. Future generations’ economic and environmental sustainability may furthermore benefit from a shorter working week. Through a redistribution of working hours, equality and employment might even increase. Even though a 40-hour working week is widely accepted as the norm; it is not set in stone.

Previous research on the topic, the shorter working week, has mainly studied the effects of shorter working hours on productivity and work-life balance. Little attention, however, has been given to the manager’s viewpoint... (More)
Visionaries around the world are advocating for a shorter working week, and there is a reason behind it. Long working hours have been shown to impede productivity while a reduction in working hours increases work-life balance. Future generations’ economic and environmental sustainability may furthermore benefit from a shorter working week. Through a redistribution of working hours, equality and employment might even increase. Even though a 40-hour working week is widely accepted as the norm; it is not set in stone.

Previous research on the topic, the shorter working week, has mainly studied the effects of shorter working hours on productivity and work-life balance. Little attention, however, has been given to the manager’s viewpoint when it comes to the issue. How managers react to a shorter working week is important for the study of management as the trend towards a shorter working week is likely to continue, even though the trajectory of the change is uncertain.

This research aims to fill this gap in the literature. To do so, we studied three organizations, each participating in an experiment where working hours were reduced. Two of the organizations are located in Iceland but the third one is located in Sweden, and they are all divisions on the municipality level. We took a qualitative approach and interviewed managers using semi-structured interviews.

Our findings, first of all, suggest that there is room for efficiency improvements, e.g. by prioritizing work and reducing and shortening meetings. Secondly, the managers experimenting with a shorter working week, in general, seem to be inclusive, engaging and democratic. Our results furthermore indicate that a shorter working week enhances work-life balance, especially for shift-workers and people with young children. At last, our results indicate that implementing a shorter working week might be impeded by culture.

In conclusion, reducing working hours may be a positive-sum game, especially when useful countermeasures are exerted. (Less)
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author
Briem, Katrín and Ólafsson, Þorvaldur
supervisor
organization
course
MGTN59 20151
year
type
H1 - Master's Degree (One Year)
subject
keywords
managers, leadership, shorter working week, shorter hours, productivity, efficiency, work-life balance, culture, stress, meetings, qualitative research, comparison, evaluation
language
English
id
5468854
date added to LUP
2015-06-29 14:31:31
date last changed
2016-06-01 04:08:47
@misc{5468854,
  abstract     = {Visionaries around the world are advocating for a shorter working week, and there is a reason behind it. Long working hours have been shown to impede productivity while a reduction in working hours increases work-life balance. Future generations’ economic and environmental sustainability may furthermore benefit from a shorter working week. Through a redistribution of working hours, equality and employment might even increase. Even though a 40-hour working week is widely accepted as the norm; it is not set in stone.

Previous research on the topic, the shorter working week, has mainly studied the effects of shorter working hours on productivity and work-life balance. Little attention, however, has been given to the manager’s viewpoint when it comes to the issue. How managers react to a shorter working week is important for the study of management as the trend towards a shorter working week is likely to continue, even though the trajectory of the change is uncertain.

This research aims to fill this gap in the literature. To do so, we studied three organizations, each participating in an experiment where working hours were reduced. Two of the organizations are located in Iceland but the third one is located in Sweden, and they are all divisions on the municipality level. We took a qualitative approach and interviewed managers using semi-structured interviews.

Our findings, first of all, suggest that there is room for efficiency improvements, e.g. by prioritizing work and reducing and shortening meetings. Secondly, the managers experimenting with a shorter working week, in general, seem to be inclusive, engaging and democratic. Our results furthermore indicate that a shorter working week enhances work-life balance, especially for shift-workers and people with young children. At last, our results indicate that implementing a shorter working week might be impeded by culture.

In conclusion, reducing working hours may be a positive-sum game, especially when useful countermeasures are exerted.},
  author       = {Briem, Katrín and Ólafsson, Þorvaldur},
  keyword      = {managers,leadership,shorter working week,shorter hours,productivity,efficiency,work-life balance,culture,stress,meetings,qualitative research,comparison,evaluation},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Is Less Work Better Work? A shorter working week from a managerial viewpoint},
  year         = {2015},
}