If an employee is required to be at their desk for 40 hours a week, does it mean that they are productive for 40 hours per week? Can there be a world where a full-time position does not work 40 hours a week? What would happen if we re-imagined what a work week looks like? What if employees only had 30 hours a week in which to get their work done? Or what if employees only had to work from 9am-3pm for 5 days a week?
The 40 hour work week is a product of the evolution of work, particularly the industrial revolution. This history now determines that full-time employees have to work 40 hours a week to earn their full salary. However, this paradigm is beginning to be questioned and some businesses have started to experiment with shortened work weeks or shortened workdays. It may feel counterintuitive but shortening workdays can actually lead to benefits for both the company and the employee.
Shortened Workdays can Increase Productivity
Shortening the workday can increase employee productivity. By reducing the hours that employees are required to be at their desk each day, their focus is sharpened to get their assigned work done within a shorter period of time. It forces employees, and the whole workforce to become more efficient with how time is used. Time wasting meetings are cut out, distractions minimized and conversations between colleagues become more purposeful.
With shortened workdays, employees have more bandwidth in their lives to spend time doing things that matter to them. This extra time free from work makes employees feel less stressed and enables them to come into work with their mind fully ready to complete the tasks at hand rather than being distracted by things that need to get done at home.
Moreover, the hours at the end of the workday are the least productive. By shortening the workday, it empowers employees to get their work done in less amount of time which in turn opens up time outside of work so that they can do things that keep them happy and healthy. Not only is this a positive outcome for the employee, having happy, healthy employees is good for business and decreases absenteeism.
Shortened Workdays can Increase Employee Satisfaction
As you can imagine, employees are big proponents of shortened workdays. It provides them with more balance between their work and personal lives. Rather than inefficiently grinding out an 8-hour work day, why not get the work done faster so that you can spend more time with family, friends, working out, or doing hobbies. Employees who benefit from shortened workdays report higher levels of job satisfaction and happiness at work.
The Evidence for Shortened Workdays
You might think that all of these ideas about shortened workdays sound good in theory, that it is just a bunch of HR fluff that doesn't actually make a strong business sense. Well, don’t take our word for it, take a look at the companies who have already started to experiment with the concept. Scandinavian countries, particularly Sweden and Norway are at the forefront of experimenting with shortened workdays.
At a hospital in Gothenburg Sweden, one of the biggest in Europe, the orthopedics unit switched 89 nurses and doctors to a six-hour day and hired 15 new staff members to make up for the lost time. The experiment was expensive, but since then, almost no one calls in sick, and the nurses and doctors have been more efficient. Additionally, the unit is performing 20 percent more operations and surgery wait times were cut to weeks from months.
Pilot Test Shortened Workdays
Are you curious about how shortened workdays could improve productivity and employee satisfaction in your workforce but concerned that it will end up costing you too much time and money? Consider piloting a new shortened work week initiative to dip your toes into the idea slowly. Get the experts at Essential HR help set up the new work arrangements. We can help you implement the changes and measure metrics to determine the success of the shortened workdays.