ILO REPORT: Flexible working hours can benefit productivity, work-life balance

An AFRIpads employee at work in Masaka, Uganda. Photo by: Ed Ram Photography

An AFRIpads employee at work in Masaka, Uganda (PHOTO/Ed Ram Photography)

GENEVA —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 (ILO) on Friday found.

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.

According to the report, a substantial portion of the global workforce is now working either long or short hours when compared to a standard eight-hour day or 40-hour working week. More than one-third of all workers are regularly working more than 48 hours per week, while a fifth of the global workforce is working short hours of less than 35 hours per week.

The COVID-19 crisis measures yielded powerful new evidence that giving workers more flexibility in how, where and when they work can be positive both for them and for business, for example by improving productivity, the report said.

Inclusive short-time work schemes with the highest possible allowances not only maintain employment but also sustain purchasing power and create the possibility of cushioning the effects of economic crises, the report emphasized, adding that public policy responses are needed to promote reductions in hours of work in many countries to promote both a healthy work-life balance and improved productivity.

“There is a substantial amount of evidence that work-life balance policies provide significant benefits to enterprises, supporting the argument that such policies are a ‘win-win’ for both employers and employees,” the report stated.

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