Article „Shorter workdays require political will“ by attorney-at-law Epp Lumiste and attorney Elin Uusväli
The year of 2017 in Estonia has begun with active discussions on various measures for keeping and increasing the motivation of employees , including wider trust of employees and shortening of workdays. Although the suggested ideas are good, they also presume amendments to laws. The current Employment Contracts Act entered into force about 8 years ago and therefore several forms of flexible performance of work have remained loose and unregulated on the legislative level.
Workday with the length of 6 hours has already received positive feedback and even American enterprises are suggested to follow the European example. By comparing the Estonian Employment Contracts Act with the according Swedish act, it is evident that in Estonia a presumption of shorter workday is legal amendments. Estonian employers are probably sceptical and questioning the reasonability of 6-hour workdays. However, the Swedish model proves that the productivity of people increases, employees are more motivated, less in stress and therefore also the efficiency and value of employees for employers is increasing. Furthermore, satisfied employees are loyal and create more stable work environment.
Another possibility to increase the satisfaction of employees is to allow choosing whether to work in the office or at home. Just to be clear, home office is not a free day granted to employees but an actual workday outside the office. This is an indication that the employer is trusting its employees and finds it unnecessary to control them in any moment.
However, even in case the employer would be interested in ignoring traditional regulations and motivating its employees by shorter workdays or introduction of some modern measures for the performance of work, it requires also political will of the law-makers.
Alternative forms of work should be viewed as a positive change creating new opportunities both for employees and employers. Implementation of flexible forms of work would provide better access to the labour market for the people who currently have not been able to work due to health issues, family relations or other circumstances. This unused potential would relieve the workforce crisis and make the employer more attractive for possible employees. But it requires also many steps on the legislative level.