Sleepless in Seoul

Alison Maitland's picture

Today's Financial Times reports a breakthrough for employees of Seoul's metropolitan government who battle with long hours and lack of sleep - they will be allowed to take an afternoon nap. But there's a sting in the tail as any worker wanting to catch up on sleep will have to tell their supervisor in the morning ... and then work overtime to make up for the nap. South Korea, as we note in Chapter 7 of the book, has among the longest working hours in the OECD, while also having relatively low productivity levels. The government has pledged to tackle this by encouraging people to work from home or from "smart work" centres nearer their homes, making full use of Seoul's fast broadband.

There's no point struggling to stay awake to work when your brain is too tired to function, and the power nap is now well-established as a productivity booster in parts of the world. But the whole idea that "work = hours-in-the-office" belongs to the last century. We need a radical overhaul of working practices in the 21st century to enable people to work to their full potential, and when they are at their most productive. Performance and results should be what matter, regardless of where and when the work is actually done.

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