Can A Shorter Workweek Make People Happier?
For many people, the concept of a shorter workweek is enticing. After all, it can be difficult to find enough time for the things we love.
Is it reasonable then, in our quest for happiness, to begin working less? Advocates of a shorter workweek would agree, but these policies have yet to be widely-adopted.
What Happens When We Work Too Much?
The unhealthy side effects of working long hours are well established. In extreme cases, however, symptoms can extend beyond the usual stress and fatigue.
For example, the American Heart Association found that people under the age of 50 had a higher risk of stroke when working over 10 hours a day for a decade or more. Another study, conducted across 14 countries, concluded that people who worked long hours were 12% more likely to become excessive drinkers.
If working longer days is so harmful to our well-being, what happens if we work fewer hours instead?
Comparing the Numbers
The tables below list the happiest countries as well as the unhappiest countries in the OECD; happiness scores range from 0 to 10, with a 10 representing the best life possible.
Based on the data, there appears to be some degree of correlation between a person’s happiness and the amount of hours they work.
Here’s how the five happiest countries stack up:
|Country||Happiness Score (0-10)||5-Yr Average Annual|
|Difference in Hours Worked
from OECD Average (1,682 hrs)
|🇫🇮 Finland||7.769||1,559 hrs||-123 hrs|
|🇩🇰 Denmark||7.600||1,406 hrs||-276 hrs|
|🇳🇴 Norway||7.554||1,422 hrs||-260 hrs|
|🇮🇸 Iceland||7.494||1,491 hrs||-191 hrs|
|🇳🇱 Netherlands||7.488||1,432 hrs||-250 hrs|
The five happiest countries each work over 100 hours less than the OECD average. Compare this to the five least happiest countries:
|Country||Happiness Score (0-10)||5-Yr Average Annual |
|Difference in Hours Worked
from OECD Average (1,682 hrs)
|🇬🇷 Greece||5.287||1,946 hrs||+264 hrs|
|🇹🇷 Turkey||5.373||1,832 hrs||+150 hrs|
|🇵🇹 Portugal||5.693||1,722 hrs||+40 hrs|
|🇭🇺 Hungary||5.758||1,749 hrs||+67 hrs|
|🇯🇵 Japan||5.886||1,710 hrs*||+28 hrs|
*OECD data includes full- and part-time workers. While this affects the entire data set, Japan’s high share of part-time workers (37% as of 2017) suggests it is particularly vulnerable to underestimation.
Coincidentally, all five of the least happiest countries work more hours than the OECD average, up to over 264 hours in the case of Greece.
Happiness is multifaceted, though, and we should avoid drawing conclusions from a single variable. For instance, the World Happiness Report 2019 calculates happiness scores based on eight distinct metrics:
|#1||Positive Affect||The average of 3 measures: happiness, laughter, and enjoyment|
|#2||Negative Affect||The average of 3 measures: worry, sadness, and anger|
|#3||Social Support||Having someone to count on in times of trouble|
|#4||Freedom||The ability to make life choices|
|#5||Corruption||The perception of corruption throughout business and government|
|#6||Generosity||Based on survey results about charity donations|
|#7||GDP per Capita (Log Scale)||Economic output per person|
|#8||Healthy Life Expectancy||Years spent in good health|
With these in mind, we can make a few additional observations.
Four of the five happiest OECD countries are located in the Nordics, a region known for low corruption rates and robust social safety nets. On the other end of the scale, economic hardship is a recurring theme among the OECD’s least happiest countries. The falling Turkish lira and Greece’s debt crisis are two significant examples.
To properly measure the happiness-boosting potential of a shortened workweek, it seems we need to isolate its effects.
Challenging the Status Quo
Employers are now experimenting with shorter work schedules to see if happier employees are in fact better employees.
Case 1: Successful Trial
Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand-based estate planning firm, trialed a four-day workweek for two months with no changes to compensation.
The trial was hailed as a success. Employee stress levels fell by 7 percentage points while overall life satisfaction rose by 5 percentage points. Perhaps most impressive is the fact that productivity remained the same.
Employees designed a number of innovations and initiatives to work in a more productive and efficient manner.
– Helen Delaney, University of Auckland
Following the trial, the firm’s founder expressed interest in implementing the four-day workweek on a permanent basis.
Case 2: Successful Trial with Trade-offs
Filimundus, a Sweden-based software studio, trialed a six-hour workday in 2014. Staff reception was positive, and the company has since adopted it permanently.
There were trade-offs, however. While staff enjoyed more time for their private lives, productivity across different departments saw mixed results.
We did see some decrease in production for some staff, mostly our artists, but an increase in production for our programmers. So money-wise, in costs, it evened out.
– Linus Feldt, CEO
Interestingly, the studio also trialed a seven-hour workday, and saw no positive effects.
Case 3: An Unsustainable Solution
Public healthcare workers in Gothenburg, Sweden, trialed a six-hour workday for two years. Similar to the first case, compensation was unchanged.
While the trial achieved good results—staff experienced lower stress levels and patients received a higher level of care—the policy was unsustainable.
It’s far too expensive to carry out a general shortening of working hours within a reasonable time frame.
– Daniel Bernmar
17 additional staff were hired to compensate for the shorter workdays, increasing the local government’s payroll by $738,000. The city council did note, however, that lower unemployment costs offset this increase by approximately 10%.
Picking Up Momentum
These experiments are garnering attention from around the world.
Even Japan, a country known for its “overtime culture”, is getting in on the action. Microsoft offices in the East Asian country tested a four-day workweek in August 2019, and reported happier staff, as well as an impressive 40% boost in productivity.
While the results of these early experiments are indeed promising, they’ve exposed the nuances that exist between industries and job types, and the need for further trials. One thing is certain though—shorter workweek policies should not be interpreted as a “one size fits all” solution for happier lives.
Mapping The Biggest Companies By Market Cap in 60 Countries
Tech, finance or energy giant? We mapped the biggest companies by market cap and industry.
The Biggest Companies By Market Cap in 60 Countries
Tech giants are increasingly making up more of the Fortune 500, but the world’s biggest companies by market cap aren’t so cut and dry.
Despite accounting for the largest market caps worldwide—with trillion-dollar companies like Apple and contenders including Tencent and Samsung—tech wealth is largely concentrated in just a handful of countries.
So what are the biggest companies in each country? We mapped the largest company by market cap across 60 countries in August 2021 using market data from CompaniesMarketCap, TradingView, and MarketScreener.
What are the Largest Companies in the World?
The world has 60+ stock exchanges, and each one has a top company. We looked at the largest local company, since many of the world’s largest firms trade on multiple exchanges, and converted market cap to USD.
|Country||Company||Industry||Market Cap (August 2021)|
|Saudi Arabia||Saudi Aramco||Energy||$1.9T|
|Belgium||Anheuser-Busch Inbev||Consumer Staples||$122.7B|
|Indonesia||Bank Cental Asia||Financials||$54.8B|
|Philippines||SM Investments||Consumer Cyclical||$22.9B|
|Kuwait||Kuwait Finance House||Financials||$21.9B|
|Czech Republic||ÄŒEZ Group||Energy||$15.8B|
|Poland||PKO Bank Polski||Financials||$12.6B|
|Bahrain||Ahli United Bank||Financials||$8.6B|
|Egypt||Commercial International Bank||Financials||$5.9B|
Many are former monopolies or massive conglomerates that have grown in the public space, such as South Africa’s Naspers and India’s Reliance Industries.
Others are local subsidiaries of foreign corporations, including Mexico’s Walmex, Chile’s Enel and Turkey’s QNB Finansbank.
But even more noticeable is the economic discrepancy. Apple and Saudi Aramco are worth trillions of dollars, while the smallest companies we tracked—including Panama’s Copa Group and Oman’s Bank Muscat—are worth less than $5 billion.
Finance and Tech Dominate The Biggest Companies By Market Cap
Across the board, the largest companies were able to accumulate wealth and value.
Some are newer to the top thanks to recent success. Canada’s Shopify has become one of the world’s largest e-commerce providers, and the UK’s AstraZeneca developed one of the world’s COVID-19 vaccines.
But the reality is most companies here are old guards that grew on existing resources, or in the case of banks, accumulated wealth.
|Industry||Biggest Companies by Country|
Banks were the most commonly found at the top of each country’s stock market. Closely behind were oil and gas giants, mining companies, and former state-owned corporations that drove most of a country’s wealth generation.
But as more economies develop and catch up to Western economies (where tech is dominant), newer innovative companies will likely put up a fight for each country’s top company crown.
All World Languages in One Visualization
See the world’s major languages broken down by country in this stunning visualization.
All World Languages, By Native Speakers
View a high resolution version of today’s graphic by clicking here.
Languages provide a window into culture and history. They’re also a unique way to map the world – not through landmasses or geopolitical borders, but through mother tongues.
The Tower of Babel
Today’s infographic from Alberto Lucas Lopez condenses the 7,102 known living languages today into a stunning visualization, with individual colors representing each world region.
Only 23 languages are spoken by at least 50 million native speakers. What’s more, over half the planet speaks at least one of these 23 languages.
Chinese dominates as a macrolanguage, but it’s important to note that it consists of numerous languages. Mandarin, Yue (including Cantonese), Min, Wu, and Hakka cover over 200 individual dialects, which vary further by geographic location.
|Country||Native Chinese speakers (millions)|
|🇭🇰 Hong Kong SAR||6.5|
|🇲🇴 Macau SAR||0.5|
Chinese is one of the most challenging languages for English speakers to pick up, in part due its completely unfamiliar scripts. You’d have to know at least 3,000 characters to be able to read a newspaper, a far cry from memorizing the A-Z alphabet.
Spanglish Takes Over
After Chinese, the languages of Spanish and English sit in second and third place in terms of global popularity. The rapid proliferation of these languages can be traced back to the history of Spanish conquistadors in the Americas, and British colonies around the world.
Animation: Map of Colonization (1492 – 2008):
Today, Spanish has 399 million native speakers, but these are mostly concentrated in Latin America. English has 335 million native speakers under its belt, with a widespread reach all over the globe.
Two Worlds, One Family
While the visualization makes all the world languages seem disparate, this linguistic family tree shows how they grew from a common root. It also explains how languages can evolve and branch out over time.
Created by Minna Sundberg. Full version.
This linguistic tree also includes many languages that are not on the large visualization of 23 mother tongues. Some of them might be considered endangered or at risk today, such as Catalan or Welsh. However, with globalization, a few interesting linguistic trends are arising.
1. Language revival
Certain enclaves of marginalized languages are being preserved out of pride for the traditional and cultural histories attached.
While Catalan was once banned, its rebirth is a key marker of identity in Barcelona. More than 150 universities teach Catalan worldwide. In the case of Welsh, a mammoth university project plans to make sure it does not die out. Researchers are compiling ten million Welsh words to preserve the past, present, and future of the language.
2. Language forecast
At this point in time, English is the lingua franca – adopted as a common language among speakers with different mother tongues. However, this status might soon be fuzzier as demographic trends continue.
The rise of China is an obvious one to consider. As China continues to increase its economic might and influence, its languages will proliferate as well.
At the same time, 26 African countries are projected to double their current size, many of which speak French as a first language. One study by investment bank Natixis suggests that Africa’s growth may well bring French to the forefront – making it the most-spoken language by 2050.
Could French provide a certain je ne sais quoi that no other world language can quite replace?
This post was first published in 2018. We have since updated it, adding in new content for 2021.
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