Are we due a new working week?
Georgia Balmer explores how the COVID-19 Pandemic may have changed our working habits for the better.
THERE aren’t many silver linings to be found in the ongoing Pandemic. The last 18 months have seen significant change to all elements of our lives, and few for the better. Yet, as life was pushed almost exclusively into our own homes, we were all given an opportunity to examine our priorities and daily rituals. There was genuinely nothing better to do.
In amongst a sea of self-riotous, sentimental claptrap about “really using this extra time to find myself”, genuine evaluation of the working day has evolved into a much-needed understanding of healthy working habits.
This week, Bumble’s CEO, Whitney Wolfe Herd, announced that there would be a company-wide week off for all 700 staff members. Citing a build-up of “collective burnout” among staff, the week-long holiday offers employees a chance to take a digital detox and destress. This isn’t Bumble’s first attempt at healthier work habits either. Working hours are chosen by staff based on their needs, weekly pedicures and blowouts are available for staff, and a ‘mummy bar’ has been set up for breastfeeding mothers. The payoff is obvious: Herd became the youngest woman to take a company public in February this year and the app has seen a 30 per cent increase in users since March 2020. Herd’s approach to leadership seems to be working and returning tangible results, so why aren’t more companies following suit?
In amongst a sea of self-riotous, sentimental claptrap about “really using this extra time to find myself”, genuine evaluation of the working day has evolved into a much-needed understanding of healthy working habits
Taking a rapidly different approach, tech giant Google is now requiring that employees apply for ‘work at home days’, of which they get a pious 14 a year, whilst Apple is requiring at least three in-office days a week by September. This was the norm pre-COVID-19, but as the boundaries between home and work have warped, many have overhauled their work day to increase efficiency. Holding onto an archaic practice of in-office working seems bizarre in the face of such strong evidence that allowing employers to self-regulate their work returns better results.
Iceland proved this earlier this week by publishing the results of their shift to a four-day working week. “This study shows that the world’s largest ever trial of a shorter working week in the public sector was by all measures an overwhelming success”, said Will Stonge, director of reader history for the study. Work-related stress decreased, productivity rose and employees noted that scheduling their own time to make the day more efficient resulted in increased job satisfaction. It seems like a no-brainer.
Unfortunately, a lot of things seems like a no-brainer in the archaic working world. You would think a reasonable living wage, properly enforced equality laws and the end of zero-hour contracts would all be no-brainers. Whilst it’s exciting to see countries and companies helping their workers to regulate their own working days and striving towards effective strategies for improving public mental health, this feels like the start of a very long, uphill battle.
Hopefully, the Pandemic will truly change the way we work forever. It would be a major benefit to come from a globally awful event. On a more realistic note, most of us will be incredibly lucky to work under a Ms Herd.