The working week

A long work week is an inefficient work week.

“I am originally from the Netherlands. The statistics are clear: our work week is one of the shortest of all countries in the world, and the length of our holidays are the longest; at the same time, we have one of the largest GDP per capita, that is the average individual in our country has a large productivity. This combination of few hours working and a large productivity can only lead to one conclusion: we work efficiently. Why are we so efficient? The answer could be found in the fact that we are also one of the happiest countries in the world. That is, having a good work/private life balance increases our happiness. Another contribution to our happiness is the fact that when we fall ill or lose our job, we receive between 70% and 80% of our last salary for a significant amount of time; therefore, we do not need to worry about our future. Therefore, we are less stressed and happier in life compared to most other nations. This also reflects on the workplace: we can be efficient because we do not need to worry about our future or our work/life balance; we can put all energy and concentration on the job. Many psychological studies show that the more stress you experience and the more uncertain you feel about your future, the less efficient you are in your work. Three years ago I moved to London. Frankly speaking, within a month after starting my job here, I already felt chronically stressed and uncertain about my future. I worry about losing my job or becoming chronically ill, as life would be quite hard in these situations. Therefore, I have started to work more hours, to show my manager how good I am so that I could get promotion and a higher salary, so that I could start saving money and not need to worry about my future anymore. My 40 hours per week became 50, which became 60 and recently peaked on 75 per week with skipping several nights of sleeping per week. However, I have been working so hard lately, that I collapsed and developed burnout symptoms such as being chronically exhausted and lack of concentration. I am now on sickness leave, but my stress increases because I worry about my financial future in this country if I’d lose my job. Working too many hours, combined with an uncertain future, can demand too much from employees, which will lead to chronic stress and burnout and subsequently a less efficient society. Therefore, we should demand short work weeks and the certainty of a basic income. Only in this way, our economy can be optimally efficient.”

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