Germany’s recently been on a roll, topping the world in topping the World Cup 2014 with first-place finish. But apparently thats not all — Germany recently topped a ranking of the world’s most productive employees, according to data from the OECD, in a collaborative project down with the tech company PGi, an MNC specialising in providing conferencing and collaboration solutions via SAAS (Software-As-a-Service) and cloud computing.
While not as exciting as being the victors of World Cup 2014, American workers with their infamously long workweeks came third in productivity. Singaporeans and Japanese workers and employers may also want to take note of this.
In second place were the the French, with a famed 35-hour workweek, generous vacation policies and reputation for putting aside the time to enjoy life. The French are more productive, per hour worked, than Americans.
While Americans are not underperforming in international productivity front, the data should make employers and managers review the basis for long hours. US workers put in more hours than nearly everyone reviewed but the South Koreans — the country ranks near the bottom when it comes to hourly productivity.
While many nations are moving toward shorter workweeks and integrating flexible work options as a management function rather than a benefit — Sweden notably just began an experiment in shorter workweeks, while Germany has a policy of kurzarbeit, or shorter working hours, to fight unemployment and spread around available work. The USA, and other countries, seem stuck in a cultural rut, boasting about long office hours.
For years, multiple studies have shown the diminishing returns of consistently putting in more than 40 hours a week, while some economists, alongside the founders of Google, have repeatedly pointed out that technology and significantly enhancing and boosting productivity, its a sensible decision, economically and socially, to work shorter workweeks (e.g. 30 hours a week or like the French, 35 hours a week).
Danes work the fewest hours of any nationality but consistently top global rankings of happiness, along with consistent and competent economic performance. According to a Washington Post reporter, a common Danish perception is that an inability to complete work in 37 hours a week is seen as inefficiency. looking into this data, “you’re seen as inefficient.”
The Dutch are another people who express great contentment with shorter workweeks. The Germans and Danes might be on to something, so some productivity tips to get started, being ruthless about prioritisation, and protecting leisure time are certainly powerful tools in the arsenal to consider.
Would it work in Asia? Perhaps, if if managers and employers are willing to review their business operating system and review the fundamental principles underlying their management practices and principles. Flexibility isn’t just a benefit, but increasingly, a core business practice.