Six in 10 workers want to ditch the 40-hour work week, survey finds

Most workers want their productivity measured by results — not by how many hours they spend working, according to a multi-national survey by business software and services provider Adaptavist.

A remote worker works from home with tablet, documents, notebook and pen.
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Workers want their productivity measured by the results they achieve, not by how many hours they log during the work week, according to a survey of 3,500 employees in the US, UK, Australia and Canada.

The survey by business software and services provider Adaptavist found 58% of workers want to eliminate the 40-hour work week, and nearly half (47%) believe the best flexible work option would be a four-day work week. More one-in-four respondents (28%) also said their employer already offers a four-day work week option.

“They also believe the definition of productivity needs to change,” the survey authors said. “Close to 60% think the focus needs to be on the quality of work vs. the number of hours logged – another indicator that the workplace must continue to evolve."

The research is aimed at providing information about how workers are shaping and adapting to their new workplaces. The survey probed views on issues including hybrid vs. office work life; productivity, collaboration and isolation; communication tools; health and well-being; and the future of work.

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The findings reflect “the changing dynamic between employees and management, as well as a continuing shift in attitude toward traditional workplace constructs.” While workers are going back to the office in slightly higher numbers, hybrid and remote work set-ups are here to stay, something more than one research organization has echoed.

Last year, Gartner had predicted 31% of all workers worldwide would be remote (either hybrid and fully remote) in 2022. But the more recent Adaptavist survey found 43% working hybrid or fully remotely — with an even greater number wanting more say in where they work (59%), the structure of their work week, and the way their productivity is measured.

“The transformation of work over the last few years has been long lasting, but will also continue to evolve,” said John Turley, head of organizational transformation at Adaptavist. “Just as employees have grown accustomed to questioning the level of flexibility and freedom their organization provides, they’re now understandably considering the costs associated with heading back to the office, working from home or some combination of the two.”

Aside from where and how workers do their jobs, the survey also asked what collaboration platforms employees could not live without. More than half of the respondents chose Microsoft Teams (54%), compared to Zoom (46%) and Slack (12%).

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Although communication apps have come a long way in the past two years, they still lead to "tool fatigue," resulting in wasted time and feelings of invisibility online; more than one-third of respondents said they're too overwhelmed by work to talk to colleagues, the study found. As a result, close to 90% of workers said in-person connection is important, if not critical, and saw connecting with colleagues as the most significant reason to go back to the office full-time.

When asked about how much time they waste looking for information to do their jobs (such as searching through emails, chat conversations, and saved documents), more than half said at least 30 minutes. About 17% indicated they spend up to two hours a day searching for information to do their job.

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The Adaptavist research also found that while employees want more choice and control over their work lives, hybrid and remote work comes at a cost in the form of isolation, loneliness, and increased workloads. About 30% of the workers surveyed said they feel lonely every day, and asynchronous workers — those who aren’t in real-time communication with managers and colleagues — are the most affected (39%).

The survey also indicated one in three workers is actively looking for a new job, with better wages more important than flexibility, work-life balance and more meaningful employment as reasons for change.

“This would seem to indicate the market is still poised to favor the employee, yet this research reveals a warning for job switchers. Amongst those who already left their jobs as part of the Great Resignation, more than one-third regret the decision,” the report stated.

Each month for more than a year in the US, more than 4 million workers have been quitting the workforce, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For the more than 1,200 UK employees surveyed by Adaptavist, these issues, coupled with inflation and cost of living increases, have created a new "cost of working" crisis that affects not only where they work, but how. Of the 38% of respondents that said they suffered anxiety about returning to the office, 35% said that anxiety is due to the commute.

Given higher transportation and fuel costs, it's “hardly surprising that people would prefer the flexibility of working from home where they can, with 29% saying that commute reimbursement and/or free parking is the perk they would like their company to offer to go back into the office full time," according to Adaptivist. And 28% said they wanted free food and drink, underlining the ways people are affected by rising prices.

The largest four-day work week experiment to date is taking place in the UK with the backing of researchers at Cambridge, Boston College and Oxford. The study is following 3,300 workers from 70 companies who receive the same compensation, and are expected to complete the same amount of work they did when working five days a week. Organizers say they've seen significant improvements to worker wellbeing.

The 6-month experiment involves people who work 32 hours over those four days, rather than the typical 40 hours in five days. The workers get five days' pay for four days' work, according to Juliet Schor, a professor of sociology at Boston College and one of the study administrators.

"We are seeing very promising results from the trials that have been running since February 2022," Schor said in an email reply to Computerworld. "Employees are experiencing a wide range of positive outcomes related to health and well-being, and companies are very happy with the results, and planning to continue with the four day schedule."

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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