Jobs and the Future of Work

5 work trends this week: Working less and dealing with stress

Workers return to offices.

Read this week’s trends from the world of work from Adecco. Image: Photo by Timon Studler on Unsplash

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Education, Gender and Work

  • A shorter working week could have countless benefits for workers and businesses alike. Is it time to reconsider how we work?
  • Plus, workers return to the office stressed out (and it’s becoming a wellbeing problem for companies).
  • The parents redefining their new normal at work.
  • The case for a global AI Bill of Rights.
  • And the argument for cover letters.

In the world of work this week…research shows a majority of workers can do their job in less than 40 hours a week. So why are we still stuck in the same work week, even amid such radical shifts in the way we work over the course of the pandemic? It’s time to redefine our relationship with work. Plus, more highlights you might have missed this week:

  • Understanding digital justice (and why it matters).
  • The U.S. jobs growth report is in – and it’s unexpectedly weak.
  • Adecco CEO Alain Dehaze on why it’s so important for companies to understand their workers – and their shifting needs.
  • Cisco’s new hybrid work model and how it’s redefining work.
  • IBM pledges to reskill 30 million people globally by 2030 to help close the global digital skills gap.

We’ve got a full breakdown of all the top headlines you can’t miss this week.

#1. Should we be working less?

Long hours sitting in the office. Meetings that run into dinner time. Less family time.

Does any of this sound familiar? During the course of the pandemic, those working from home had to balance family responsibilities, longer workdays, and personal responsibilities all at once. Over the course of the pandemic, more than 60% of workers putting in over 40 hours per week. However, 6 out of 10 of those workers say they would be able to do their work in less than 40 hours.

This explains why most (72%) people surveyed want employers to revisit the length of the working week. A shorter working week could have countless societal, environmental, personal, and even economic benefits. Is it time to reassess our relationships with our jobs?

The pandemic showed us that it is possible to radically change the way we live and work. It’s led many to renewed discussions about the possibility of a four-day work week as workers consider redefining their new normal – without a loss in pay. In New Zealand, consumer-goods corporation Unilever is halfway through its 12-month test run of a shorter work week. In March, Spain became one of the first countries in the world to test a four-day working week in a pilot project featuring several dozen companies.

It’s not secret that workers want to re-evaluate the concept of their work weeks. People want to work smarter, not longer. Should we reconsider? Read more at The Guardian.

Image: The Adecco Group’s Resetting Normal Report, 2021

#2. Workers are returning to the office anxious and stressed out – and it’s becoming a big problem for companies.

As some workers return to the office (or think about returning to the office), one clear issue is becoming apparent: stress and anxiety. Research shows that 49% of leaders and 42% of non-managers said they have felt, or are feeling, anxiety about returning to the office. Another survey shows that 48% of people working in a shared office space during the pandemic caused them to feel moderate to high levels of stress.

Stress can cause a whole range of physiological, mental, and emotional problems for employees, and companies looking to safeguard their employees’ wellbeing need to take note. According to Workplace wellness expert Janice Litvin, author of Banish Burnout Toolkit, those effects can include migraines, high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, exhaustion, disengagement, and more.

“All of these reactions to stress add up to lowered levels of productivity, increased number of health insurance claims and many people quitting their jobs,” Litvin told Forbes. Read more at Forbes.

#3. The parents who don’t want to go back to the office.

For Ellen, an American worker and mother of one living north of New York City, everything changed in May 2021. The CEO of JPMorgan told a conference that working from home “doesn’t work for those who want to hustle.”

Ellen, who has worked on Wall Street her entire career, was shocked. “During the previous 18 months, I’d spent every single waking hour of the day doing nothing but hustle,” she told the BBC.

But she was one of hundreds of Wall Street workers whose employers called time on the remote work experiment this year. The news came as “devastating” to her, she told the BBC. Before the pandemic, Ellen rarely saw her three-year-old son during the week. But since the pandemic, she started to have lunch with her son and put him to bed for the first time in years.

“Through all the pain of the pandemic, the one huge upside was that I’d had a chance to really bond with him,” she says of her son. “I was working, and we have a nanny, but I was at home and the opportunity to hang out with him between Zoom meetings and calls was priceless.”

Parents have been wanting more autonomy over their working lives for years now, and the pandemic gave them that power – at least in part. Over the past 18 months, research has shown that workers no longer consider flexible and remote working options “nice to have” features – they expect them.

Even so, research has shown that the physical office will continue to remain an important part of the future of work. Our research has found that 53% of workers want to maintain a schedule where more than half of their time in spent working remotely after the pandemic. Young people, however, overwhelmingly prefer to spend more time in the office.

Though it might seem counterintuitive, our data shows that parents with children also want to spend more time working from the office (51%) than those who do not have kids (42%), suggesting those with children prefer to set boundaries between work and family life.

Workers tend to be split on their return to the office. Read more about the parents who don’t want to go back to the office here.

#4. Why we need a global AI Bill of Rights.

Evidence of human judgement is becoming harder and harder to spot. Automated decision making influences a number of different fields: recruitments, mortgage approvals, and even prison sentencing. In a commentary for the Financial Times, one journalist is making the case that algorithmic decision-making puts technology first, and due diligence second; as a result, it’s time to fight for fair technological practices.

White House science advisers are proposing a Bill of Artificial Intelligence Rights, a similar document to the US Bill of Rights (circa 1791). “In the 21st century, we need a ‘bill of rights’ to guard against the powerful technologies we have created . . . it’s unacceptable to create AI that harms many people, just as it’s unacceptable to create pharmaceuticals and other products — whether cars, children’s toys or medical devices — that will harm many people,” write Eric Lander, Biden’s chief science adviser, and Alondra Nelson, deputy director of science and society in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, in Wired.

What would an AI Bill of Rights even mean? Well, to start, it could ensure that people have a right to know if – and how – AI makes decisions about them. It might also ensure freedom from algorithms that mirror real world decision-making (which can often be biased), and it would give people a right to challenge AI decisions that might seem unfair to them. Unpack it all at The Financial Times.

#5. Why do cover letters still exist?

The job application process can be downright tedious for many workers, but it’s a necessary evil. Workers prep their resumes, prepare for interviews, send thank-you emails….but one part of the process seems oddly outdated: the cover letter.

It’s no secret that many workers hate writing a cover letter…and so many of those workers don’t see the point in writing cover letters, either. One 2017 survey found that only 26% of U.S. recruiters consider cover letters an important part of the process.

Yet some recruiters still make the argument that the cover letter is a candidate’s opportunity to stand out – and show what your resume cannot. Writing a cover letter can seem daunting, especially if you are not a strong writer. But experts say it’s more important than ever to include the cover letter, no matter how tempted the candidate may be. “I look at it as kind of wearing make-up to an interview. It’s showing that you’re taking it seriously – you’re willing to put in some effort,” says Kristie Loescher, senior lecturer of management at the University of Texas, Austin, who teaches business communications. Do you still believe in cover letters? Read more at the BBC.

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