Total workload and recovery in relation to worktime reduction: a randomised controlled intervention study with time-use data

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Abstract

Objectives

A 25% reduction of weekly work hours for full-time employees has been shown to improve sleep and alertness and reduce stress during both workdays and days off. The aim of the present study was to investigate how employees use their time during such an intervention: does total workload (paid and non-paid work) decrease, and recovery time increase, when work hours are reduced?

Methods

Full-time employees within the public sector (n=636; 75% women) were randomised into intervention group and control group. The intervention group (n=370) reduced worktime to 75% with preserved salary during 18 months. Data were collected at baseline, after 9 months and 18 months. Time-use was reported every half-hour daily between 06:00 and 01:00 during 1 week at each data collection. Data were analysed with multilevel mixed modelling.

Results

Compared with the control group, the intervention group increased the time spent on domestic work and relaxing hobby activities during workdays when worktime was reduced (P≤0.001). On days off, more time was spent in free-time activities (P=0.003). Total workload decreased (−65 min) and time spent in recovery activities increased on workdays (+53 min). The pattern of findings was similar in subgroups defined by gender, family status and job situation.

Conclusions

A worktime reduction of 25% for full-time workers resulted in decreased total workload and an increase of time spent in recovery activities, which is in line with the suggestion that worktime reduction may be beneficial for long-term health and stress.

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