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

Working time arrangements introduced during COVID-19 can bring benefits for economies, businesses and workers, says International Labor Organization

Shorter workdays and more flexible work schedules, like those utilized during the COVID-19 pandemic, can benefit economies, enterprises,and workers as well as pave the way for a better and healthier work-life balance, the International Labor Organization (ILO) said Friday.

Analyzing different working-time arrangements and their effects on work-life balance, including shift work, on-call work, compressed hours, and hours-averaging schemes, ILO’s Working Time and Work-Life Balance Around the World report found that these flexible schedules provide “better family life.”

“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 said.

It underlined that coronavirus measures showed that giving workers more flexibility in how, where, and when they work can be positive both for them and for business, improving productivity. Contrarily, limiting flexibility brings substantial costs, including increased staff turnover, it added.

“The so-called ‘Great Resignation’ phenomenon has placed work-life balance at the forefront of social and labour market issues in the post-pandemic world,” said Jon Messenger, lead author of the report, citing an ongoing economic trend in which employees have voluntarily resigned from their jobs since the beginning of the pandemic.

Messenger added: “This report shows that if we apply some of the lessons of the COVID-19 crisis and look very carefully at the way working hours are structured, as well as their overall length, we can create a win-win, improving both business performance and work-life balance.”

However, the report cautioned that the benefits of some flexible arrangements, such as spending more time with the family, may also be accompanied by greater gender imbalances and health risks.

When compared to a standard eight-hour day/40-hour work week, a sizeable part of the global workforce works either lengthy or short hours, according to the report. More than one-third of all workers consistently work more than 48 hours per week, whereas a fifth of the global workforce works short hours (part-time) of fewer than 35 hours per week.

The report advised nations to keep assisting pandemic-era initiatives like inclusive short-term work schemes, which not only preserved jobs but also increased purchasing power and lessened the effects of economic crises.

It also called for a change in public policy to shorten working hours and support a healthy work-life balance in many nations.


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