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Businesses in these countries offer alternative working options that aim to limit interactions with employees after hours, shorten the work week and encourage leave to be taken, and workers generally report higher levels of overall happiness and engagement.

With UK workers believing that over 36% of their time spent at work is unproductive, Instant Offices look at what countries around the world are doing to encourage employee engagement and overall happiness.

TUC has recently announced with the advances in technology, the possibility of a four-day workweek in the UK is likely to happen by 2100. However, countries like Germany, Norway, Sweden, and France are already proving that you don’t have to work eight-hour days to be more productive.

Data shows that Germany works the shortest hours with a weekly average of 26.37 hours.  Netherlands and Norway work the second and third shortest hours, working just 1% less than Germany respectively. What’s more, Germans can request a reduction in their hours if they work for a company with fewer than 15 employees.

Research points to the fact that employers reportedly find it easier to attract top talent with flexible working options and a better work-life balance. UK employees voted flexible working a favored benefit, with 35% listing it as their top one.

In Sweden, the introduction of six-hour work days was established to motivate employees to work smarter at work while having more time to spend at home. Sweden and Germany are not the only countries that believe the 8-hour work day isn’t as effective as some think.

As we already know, Germans have the highest amount of annual leave with a whopping 30 days off annually. In Norway, it’s 21 days each year and in Denmark, the average paid vacation allowance is five weeks. The Danish consider family highly important, so finding a balance for work and home is easy – they have the right to five weeks of holiday a year, of which three weeks can be taken consecutively during the school vacation periods to encourage time with children.

The UK is committed to transforming the modern workplace, and through several benefits and options for employees, the UK labor market has introduced some of the most diverse working patterns in Europe. After 26 weeks of continuous employment with a company, workers in the UK can request agile working options, including anything from job sharing and shift work to part-time work or even working from home. In Germany, flexitime is a popular working arrangement in larger organizations and is agreed between the company and the employee at their discretion.

A French employee’s time spent working can be broken up with a generous lunch break that can last 2 hours, and some smaller businesses tend to close for lunch so employees can spend time with their families. Germans follow a similar suit, often having full, sit-down lunches with colleagues, with a lunch beer, not something that’s frowned upon.

Labour ministries in Germany have banned managers from calling or emailing staff after work hours, except in an emergency, enforcing the idea that employees leave work at work when they go home. France followed similar suit when the country passed a law which requires companies with 50 or more employees to establish hours when staff will not send or respond to emails.

In France, overtime is not generally part of the working culture – taking work home to do in the evenings or over the weekend is not common practice for regular employees, however, senior staff are more likely to put in overtime. Regulations like these ensure that employees are fairly paid for work, and prevent burnout by protecting private time.

Through strict paid leave programs, like compulsory vacation time, maternal and paternal paid leave, countries like Norway, Sweden, France, and Germany take a strong stand when it comes to preventing worker burnout. With the rise of family-friendly workplaces, the reduction of hours spent at the office and different ways of working being encouraged, a new culture is emerging that challenges the traditional 9 – 5.

About the author: John Williams, is the head of Marketing and Research at Instant Offices. Bringing extensive experience in the commercial property market. John joined The Instant Group in 2015 to spearhead Instant Offices’ marketing team and support the rapid growth of the business both on and offline. 

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