Changes to the workplace throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the wide-scale adoption of telework and flexible schedules, changed “the nature of employment, most likely for the foreseeable future,” a Jan. 6 report by the International Labour Organization, a United Nations agency, found.
“The so-called Great Resignation phenomenon has placed work-life balance at the forefront of social and labor market issues in the post-pandemic world,” Jon Messenger, the lead author of the report, said in a news release. “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.”
The report, Working Time and Work-Life Balance Around the World, found that giving employees more flexibility in “how, where and when they work” can improve productivity while reducing flexibility can increase staff turnover. Hours of work and work schedules are key to determining how well employees can establish work-life balance, the report found.
ILO found that 35.4% of global workers worked more than 48 hours per week in 2019 — a rate that decreased somewhat during the pandemic. Long hours of work decrease work-life balance, the report found, while shorter hours of work increase productivity.
ILO highlighted policies adopted during the pandemic, including short-time work and telework, that “should be made permanent” due to their positive benefits for workers; the experiments with four-day workweeks done in Iceland, which showed that reducing working hours can lead to more efficient time usage, and Kurzarbeit, a German short-term work scheme, were among those ILO spotlighted.
“By developing and implementing progressive policies and practices in line with the principles of decent working time, both workers and employers can reap the benefits of a healthy work–life balance,” the report concluded.