Our representative at the chamber of employees, denise steinhäuser has the floor.
Technological and digital progress both enables and requires it, if we don’t want to make ourselves ill through this permanent hyper-connectivity and take care of our mental health.
The continuous reduction in weekly paid working hours was, is and remains the result of the success made possible by industrialization and the pressure from trade unions. Part of the struggle for recognition and participation was therefore to take back as much extra working time as possible – for one’s own free time, for rest from arduousness, for health or education.
Limiting the company’s access to man’s labor power and its capital of has therefore always been an essential task for trade unions, perhaps the most important after negotiating wages, which are calculated on the basis of working time.
Advances in productivity, which increased dramatically thanks to the Industrial Revolution, also offered an economic argument in this respect. With the help of machines, it was possible to produce economic goods in a fraction of the time originally required.
Fairly long working weeks of 70 or 80 hours were not exceptional, nor are they today. The British entrepreneur and social reformer Robert Owen had already developed a time formula in 1817: a working day consisting of eight hours of work, eight hours of sleep and eight hours of leisure and relaxation. This three-part division of the day was to become a vision for subsequent generations.
The Geneva Congress of the International Workers’ Association (IWA), attended by Karl Marx and his companion Friedrich Engels in 1866, made the transition to an eight-hour day a general demand. A company in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, introduced the eight-hour day in 1884. It was thus a world forerunner – and ahead of politics.
The time formula developed by Robert Owen over 200 years ago is still relevant today, but as an upper limit. It has been present in the recommendations of the International Labor Organization (ILO) since 1979: the normal working week should not exceed 40 hours. This corresponds exactly to the eight-hour day, applied to a five-day week.
In Luxembourg, however, employees have only been working a 40-hour week since 1974. However, current events constantly demonstrate that the question of maintaining or reducing this working week has become a hot topic. The recent “Quality of work” study by the Chamber of Employees (CSL) has come up with some arguments in favor of a reform. Indeed, after surveying a representative sample of the working population, a common wish emerges: to devote less time to their work. More than half of those surveyed believe that they work longer hours than they would like. This proportion reaches 51% on average, with a notable increase among younger employees.
Among them, 54% express the need to limit the length of their working hours in the future, a figure that rises to 58% among 25-34 year-olds. Nora Back, President of the Chamber of Employees, analyzes this situation, pointing out:
“This raises real questions about the kind of jobs we want to offer current and future generations of workers. The Grand Duchy is already struggling to find workers in many sectors, so there’s no doubt that these 40 hours are now having a negative impact.”
It is interesting to note that the desire to “work less” is shared “without significant difference” between residents and cross-border workers. This desire translates into an average of 34.4 hours of work per week, a 15% reduction compared to current full-time work. In 2018, this desire only amounted to 36 hours a week.
Nor should we overlook the fact that in France the working week is 35 hours, and together with the problem of commuting time, this is a handicap in the search for cross-border labor.
Today, strict working hours as they once were, seem a thing of the past. New laws, collective agreements and company agreements now allow unprecedented flexibility in the length and organization of working hours.
Absolutely! The rapid evolution of digital technology has had a profound impact on our lives, and in particular on our constant connectivity. While this hyper-connectivity offers many benefits and opportunities, it can also have adverse consequences for our mental health if we’re not careful.
On the one hand, digital and technological progress have made unparalleled connectivity possible. We are able to stay constantly connected to others through social networks, instant messaging applications and online communication platforms. This enables us to keep in touch with loved ones, share experiences and ideas, and access an incredible amount of information and resources.
However, this constant hyperconnectivity can also become exhausting. We are often overwhelmed by an excessive amount of information, notifications and solicitations. Social and professional expectations to remain constantly available and responsive can create a sense of permanent obligation. This can lead to cognitive overload, stress and fatigue.
The Chamber of Employees (CSL) has come up with some arguments in favor of a reform. In fact, after surveying a representative sample of the population, the CSL found a deterioration in our mental well-being.
To preserve our mental health in this context, it is essential to find a balance between our use of technology and our personal well-being.
Here are three of the suggestions we have made to help us achieve this:
1. Practice digital mindfulness: Be aware of your online behavior and the emotions it arouses in you. Pay attention to your mental and emotional state when using technology.
Ask yourself questions about the impact it has on your well-being and identify moments when you might be tempted to stray from your original intentions. Mindfulness will enable you to be more present in your use of technology.
2. Set personal rules: Take the time to establish clear rules for your use of technology. For example, decide not to use your phone during meals, limit the amount of time you spend on social networks, or schedule moments of complete disconnection each day. These rules will help you better control your use of digital devices.
3. Encourage real interactions: Value face-to-face relationships with family and friends. Organize face-to-face meetings and prioritize real conversations over virtual ones. Spending quality time with others can strengthen your social relations and contribute to your overall happiness.
These three tips will help you find a healthy balance between technology and your emotional well-being, allowing you to better manage your use of digital devices and enjoy more real, meaningful interactions.
Finally, digital and technological progress offers us enormous opportunities, but we also need to take steps to protect our mental health. By setting clear limits and being aware of our personal well-being, we can navigate this hyper-connected world in a balanced and healthy way.
Recharge your batteries and dare to say no!
Denise Steinhäuser, BGL