OpenWork News from Around the World
In the U.S., recent media attention has largely focused on the tech sector’s family-leave race and the rise of the gig economy. But how are workplaces changing around the globe? Here’s a look at five developments driving the conversation in Europe and Asia.
1. In France, After-Hours Emails are the New
While some American companies are experimenting with banning after-hours email, in France it may soon become the law. According to a leaked draft bill, the French government may seek to give employees the right to fully disconnect from their workplaces after hours. The legislation is being sought, in part, to prevent employers from violating the country’s 35-hour workweek rule by requiring workers to check their mobile devices. While some 300,000 tech workers were granted the ability to forego email through union negotiations in 2014, the new law would enforce the ban for all sectors. If approved, the law would go into effect next year.
2. Work-From-Home Boom Bridges a Workforce Shortfall in Switzerland
A new report from Deloitte notes that 28 percent of Switzerland’s 4.9 million employees work from home at least half a day a week, and a third of those who don’t would like the option. The study also reports that the arrangements have numerous benefits for employers as well as employees, including a reduction in office space overhead and the ability to provide more attractive working conditions to prospective hires. With an aging population and steadily declining birth rate, the number of Swiss citizens leaving the workforce in coming years will exceed the number entering it. The Swiss Employers Association says the move toward work-from-home could help fill the expected workforce shortfall by luring employees who require more flexible work arrangements.
3. The Gig Economy Rises in The U.K.
About 11 percent of online adults in the U.K., or roughly 5 million people, are being paid for work found through online platforms like Uber, TaskRabbit, Upwork and Handy. This is according to a study by the Foundation for European Progressive Studies and UNI Europa, carried out by University of Hertfordshire. While 48 percent of respondents say gigging accounts for less than half of their total income, nearly a quarter (24 percent) are making more than half of their earnings from the shared economy. While some worry about a potential erosion of labor regulations and tax revenue associated with gigging, it seems that crowdsourced labor has found firm footing in the U.K.
4. Japan Begins a Long Climb Toward Work-Life Balance
Japan has long been known for embracing long hours and hard work. In fact, the mindset is so engrained in the culture, there’s a word for death by overwork — karoshi. The tide seems to be changing toward acceptance of work-life balance, albeit slowly. Financial Times reports that well-known companies, like Ricoh and Uniqlo, have begun reducing hours and banning late-night work. Even the Japanese government has stepped in, asking companies to shorten hours and allow employees to take vacation. In fact, legislation was sent to parliament last summer asking firms to require their employees to take at least five days off per year. While the need to rebuild the country after World War II fueled Japanese work ethic for decades, it seems the path ahead will reach for balance.
5. Denmark Leads the World in Work-Life Balance and as the Best Place for Business
According to Forbes’ 2015 Best Countries for Business list, Denmark is No. 1 in the world based on factors including personal and monetary freedom and low corruption. In fact, the country ranked in the top 20 for all but one of the survey’s 11 measures. Is it a coincidence, then, that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development places the country at the top of its work-life balance rankings? OECD cites the country’s very low percentage of workers logging long hours (only 2 percent) and the most hours per day devoted to leisure and personal care (16.1) as main factors propelling the parliamentary monarchy to top of their list. Denmark also scores well in the areas of gender equality and pay gaps, meaning both men and women are contributing to Denmark’s great business and leisure culture.
While countries vary in terms of labor market, government structure and tax system, a desire for balance, flexibility and OpenWork can be found among employees, and supported by employers, around the world.