Reduced working hours and more flexible working time arrangements, such as those used during the COVID-19 crisis, can bring benefits for economies, businesses and workers, such as greater productivity and improved work-life balance, a new report released by the International Labour Organization.
The report, titled Working Time and Work-Life Balance Around the World, is the first of its kind. It provides a comprehensive review of both main aspects of working time — working hours and working time arrangements — and their effects on workers’ work-life balance.
The report took a look at the different working time arrangements and how these contribute to work-life balance.
Standard work week– The report said the standard work week, or fixed hours for a fixed number of days, offers stability that allows workers to organize their personal life around their commitments. However, this could be inflexible especially for caregivers, who tend to be women.
Shift work– This can allow workers to work during atypical hours. It can offer greater schedule flexibility for family and childcare needs.
It can also give night-shift workers more free time during the day. However, this could come at the cost of sleep and could affect workers’ health.
Part-time work- A smaller number of work hours typically improves work-life balance, the report said. But this could depend on the work schedule or on whether the part-time work is voluntary or not.
Flexitime- This allows workers to choose when to start and finish work based on their individual needs and preferences, within specified limits.
The ILO noted that flexitime leads to better work-life balance because workers can arrange their time to accommodate non-work commitments. It also benefits the mental health of workers and contributes to lower levels of stress.
Flexitime can also be good for employers. It leads to lower employee turnover, lower recruitment costs, and increased productivity, it said.
Compressed workweek- This involves scheduling the same number of work hours over fewer days in a week. This is also considered to be good for work-life balance because it gives workers an extra day, according to the ILO.
This also benefits employers as they are able to reduce operating and maintenance costs.