Working smarter

Are suggestions that a shorter working day would boost efficiency the way forward?

Is shortening the working day the way to improve both efficiency and happiness? Ravindranath K / The National
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Just 200 years after British factory owner Robert Owen proposed his workers’ day should involve “eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest”, a new theory advocates reducing the working day to just six hours. The Swedish city of Gothenburg adopted this last year, citing the improved health and happiness of its workforce.

Our columnist, Fatima Al Shamsi, is just one of those who says it would also pay dividends here. As an Emirati who grew up amid the frenetic pace of New York City, she says adopting a shorter working day would make people more focused and efficient while reducing the risk of vocational burnout through having a better work-life balance. Many agree.

But one wonders whether the number of working hours is really the key factor. Sixty years after Cyril Northcote Parkinson proposed his eponymous law – that work expands to fill the time allotted to it – the real goal needs to be efficiency rather than the number of hours spent at the task. Especially as technology does more of the heavy lifting, working smarter and more productively seems a more likely path to secure a prosperous future.