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The Great Recalibration: Why Workers Are Reevaluating Their Work-Life Priorities

Updated: Jun 26, 2023

The Great Recalibration: Why Workers Are Reevaluating Their Work-Life Priorities
Work Life Balance

In the past, working long hours used to be a sign of dedication and commitment to one's job. However, times are changing, and employees are opting for a different approach to work. According to a recent WSJ article, today, many workers are choosing to work less than the traditional 40-hour workweek, and they are doing so by choice.

This trend is a reflection of a shifting culture that values work-life balance, four day work weeks, and other flexible work arrangements. In this article, we'll explore the reasons why employees are choosing to work less, the benefits of shorter work hours, and the strategies that employers can use to support this trend.

The Rise of a New Work-Life Balance Culture

With the advancement of technology and a shift towards a more flexible work environment, the traditional 9-5 workday is becoming less common. Many employees are choosing to work fewer hours, often by choice, in order to achieve a better work-life balance. This trend towards shorter work hours has gained momentum in recent years, as more and more employees prioritize their personal lives over their careers.

Introduction to the Trend of Working Less Hours by Choice

Being chained to your desk or working long hours to prove your commitment to a job is not where work is heading globally. In the U.K., the world's largest four day work week experiment was a smashing success! Revenues increased compared to the same period six months earlier. Additionally, workers reported an over 70% life satisfaction score after the trial period. Many companies are starting to see the writing on the wall, and acting swiftly to offer more work choices for their employees, and contractors.

Having different options, and greater flexibility is key. Professionals are now setting their own schedules, working fewer hours and often working from home. This trend is not just limited to the younger generation, but also for seasoned workers who seek to spend time on hobbies, and other interests as well as slowly scaling back their work hours as they approach retirement.

As the life expectancy nears 90+ for some, it does not make sense to fully retire by age 65. A recent article by The Wall Street Journal points to some older citizens stating they will work until they die because they want to remain productive. Truly, there are many reasons why employees choose to work fewer hours.

For some, it's the desire for more leisure time, while for others, it's the need to care for family or pursue other interests. For others, working fewer hours is simply a way to reduce stress and maintain better mental and physical health. More and more companies like Amazon, and Microsoft are accommodating this shift towards shorter work hours, recognizing that it can lead to increased employee satisfaction, engagement, and productivity.

Advantages of Reduced Working Hours for Employees

Better Work-Life Balance

One of the most significant benefits of working fewer hours is the ability to achieve a better work-life balance. By having more control over their schedules, employees can better manage their work and personal responsibilities, leading to less stress and improved well-being.

According to a recent Deloitte survey Gen Zs & Millenials are prioritizing work/life balance over the seniority of a role or buying a house. In other words, they'll forgo traditional status markers for more time with family, and friends. Generation X is more focused on independence, and financial health.

Improved Physical and Mental Health

Reducing work hours can also lead to improved physical and mental health. Studies have shown that employees who work shorter hours have lower rates of stress, depression, and other mental health issues. Additionally, employees who work shorter hours also have more time to engage in physical activities, which can lead to better overall health.

Increased Job Satisfaction and Loyalty

Employees who have more control over their schedules tend to be more satisfied with their jobs and more loyal to their employers. A recent study found that companies with flexible work schedules saw an improvement in employee engagement, retention, and overall wellness.

This could be attributed to the fact that employees feel valued when they have more control over their work-life balance. Ultimately, less work hours can lead to happier employees who are more likely to stay with their employer for the long-term.

By accommodating flexible work arrangements, companies can improve employee retention rates and build a more engaged and dedicated workforce.

Impact of Working Less Hours on Employee Productivity

Despite the benefits of reduced working hours, many employers worry about the impact it could have on employee productivity. However, studies have shown that shorter work hours can actually lead to increased productivity.

The Relationship Between Working Hours and Productivity

There is a clear relationship between working hours and productivity. Studies have shown that employees who work shorter hours tend to be more productive during their working hours. One study conducted by the Swedish government in 2015 found that employees who worked six-hour days rather than eight-hour days were not only more productive but also happier and less likely to take time off due to illness. This is because employees who work shorter hours have more focused and concentrated work periods, which leads to increased productivity.

Another study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology revealed that working longer hours increased the risk of developing various health issues, such as coronary heart disease and hypertension. Furthermore, a reduction in work hours can lead to improved work-life balance, which can boost morale and job satisfaction.

Understanding the Concept of the "Productivity Paradox"

The "productivity paradox" is a term used to describe the idea that working longer hours does not necessarily lead to increased productivity. In fact, studies have shown that employees who work longer hours tend to be less productive overall, due to fatigue, stress, and other factors. By reducing work hours, employees can achieve a better work-life balance, leading to improved mental and physical health, increased job satisfaction, and ultimately, increased productivity.

Strategies for Employers to Support Reduced Working Hours

More and more employees are seeking a better work-life balance and are choosing to work fewer hours. Employers need to adapt to these changing needs to retain top talent. The current US labor market is tight, and with a decrease in male labor participation, changing job expectations among workers, and a shift in priorities, workers silent quit or leave a job when it does not deliver as promised. COVID has changed the way we think about work, and the way we work. There is no turning back. Here are some strategies that employers can implement to support reduced working hours:

Implementing Flexible and Remote Work Arrangements

Offering flexible work arrangements like telecommuting or flexible work hours can help employees better manage their personal responsibilities. Remote work can help employees save time, and money on commuting, childcare expenses, food, clothing and provide a more comfortable work environment. Employers can also consider offering the option to work part-time or job share.

Offering Job-Sharing and Reduced-Hours Options

Job sharing allows two employees to share the workload of one full-time job, which can be a great option for employees who want to work fewer hours but still contribute to the organization. Employers can also consider offering reduced-hours options for employees who might not be comfortable job sharing.

Providing Support for Employees with Caregiving Responsibilities

Employees with caregiving responsibilities often find it challenging to balance work and personal responsibilities. Employers can offer support by providing resources and benefits like daycare, flexible hours, and paid parental leave. Providing these benefits can help reduce stress and improve job satisfaction for these employees.

Overcoming Challenges of Shortened Work Schedules

Reduced working hours can be beneficial for employees, but it also brings unique challenges for both employers and employees. These challenges can include:

Challenges for Employers and Managers

Managers must ensure that employees working fewer hours are still able to meet job requirements and maintain productivity levels. Employers must also be aware of potential conflicts between part-time and full-time employees, as part-time employees may feel like they are receiving less than their full-time counterparts.

Challenges for Employees

They may experience difficulty keeping up with the workload or maintaining the same level of work quality as they would with a full-time schedule. Additionally, employees working reduced hours may experience financial strain if their hourly wage is not enough to support their expenses.

Emerging Trends in the Future of Work and Work-Life Balance

The work environment is constantly evolving, and employers must adapt to remain competitive. Here are some emerging trends on the future of work and work-life balance:

  • The Four Day Work Week

  • The Six Hour Workday

  • Contract Labor

  • Job Sharing

  • Re-skilling

  • Up-skilling

  • Freelance Option

  • Wellness Perks

  • Equitable Pay

  • Centralized Communication

  • Role/Work Flexibility

  • Project Oriented Work

  • Internal Mobility

  • Flexible Hours

  • WFA: Work From Anywhere

By offering employees support and options that accommodate their unique needs, employers can foster a more engaged and productive workforce. As we move forward, it is likely that the trend of working less hours by choice will continue to shape the future of work and the way we think about productivity.

it is important to note that this shift towards shorter workweeks must be accompanied by fair compensation and benefits packages. Employees should not be expected to sacrifice their financial stability in exchange for more time off. Companies must also ensure that workload distribution is equitable and that all employees have access to the same opportunities for advancement.

In conclusion, as technology continues to advance and the nature of work changes, it is crucial for companies to prioritize employee well-being in order to remain competitive and successful. By offering flexible options such as shorter workweeks, companies can create a happier, healthier, productive and more loyal workforce.


Why are employees choosing to work less hours?

There are several reasons why employees are opting to work less. Many workers prioritize work-life balance and want more flexibility in their schedules to spend time with family, pursue hobbies, or take care of personal responsibilities. Others may find that shorter work hours improve their physical and mental well-being, leading to increased job satisfaction and productivity.

Does working less hours affect employee productivity?

There is a common belief that working longer hours leads to increased productivity. However, studies have shown that this is not always the case. In fact, working less may lead to improved productivity because employees are better rested, more focused, and have a better work-life balance.

What strategies can employers use to support employees who want to work less hours?

Employers can offer a range of options to support employees who want to work less, including flexible work arrangements such as remote work, job sharing, and reduced hours. Employers can also provide support for employees with caregiving responsibilities, offer sabbaticals, and create a culture that values work-life balance.

What is the future of work in relation to the trend of working less hours by choice?

The trend of working less hours by choice is likely to continue as more workers prioritize work-life balance and flexibility. Employers who embrace this trend and offer support to employees will be better equipped to attract and retain talent. Additionally, technological advances and changing attitudes towards work may lead to a rethinking of traditional workweek structures and a move towards more flexible and personalized work arrangements.


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