If only. Most of you are probably thinking, but it’s not quite as unrealistic as it sounds. Working for fewer hours each day is actually proving better for concentration, health, and productivity.
We are all time wasters. That might seem like a harsh statement, but it’s almost impossible not to be when we’re chained to a desk for long, inflexible hours surrounded by multifold temptations to procrastinate. In Forbes last year, Cheryl Connor revealed that people who now admit to wasting time at work every day has reached a whopping 89% (up more than 20% than the year before), supplementing her argument with shocking statistics from a CareerBuilder Poll which blamed unsurprising suspects for the demise of hard work (social media, gossip, smoking, internet browsing, phone calls, etc.) and essentially came to the conclusion that we’re all a bunch of no good slackers.
In my view though, we’re not the ones to blame. It’s the outdated structures around which business is based: inflexible working weeks, unreasonable hours, and ridiculous expectations.
Last year, Filimundus, an app developer based in Stockholm introduced the 6-hour working day with minimal meetings, social media banned and distractions eliminated, following the lead of another tech company, Brath, who made the leap three years ago. Linus Feldt, the company’s CEO told Fast Company, “To stay focused on a specific work task for eight hours is a huge challenge. In order to cope, we mix in things and pauses to make the work day more endurable.”
Banning social media seems extreme, particularly when platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and blogs are positively transforming the way we do business, allowing companies to reach new audiences, increase sales, and foster customer relationships across the globe. However, the concept is an important one and it demonstrates a shift away from an outdated and highly restrictive professional structure.
The 8 hour working day is based on the idea that employees are productively working for those 8 hours, but, tweeting and gossiping aside, even when employees are actually “on the job”, productivity is still a struggle with concentration continually disrupted by emails, phone calls, and meetings.
Then there’s the serious health risks of working long hours. A frightening recent study published in Science Alert reported that individuals working 55 hours or more per week had a 33% greater risk of stroke and a 13% increased risk of developing coronary heart disease. This could relate to the inactivity of employees, but also to high stress levels. When we are expected to work or exceed conventional hours, there’s not enough time leftover to properly unwind. With shorter or flexible office hours that allow people to leave when they’ve completed their work, employees feel rewarded and proud of what they’ve achieved. They start to associate the office space with productivity rather than boredom and exhaustion.
Most importantly, people get to leave with enough energy to enjoy spending time with their families, to exercise, to learn, and to relax, so that when they return to the office the next day they’re refreshed and enthused rather than exhausted. Working less hours shouldn’t mean you get paid less either. Most companies would be willing to pay the same salaries for a higher productivity and fewer hours, if that meant for bigger profits and faster development.
A Happiness at Work survey run by Nic Marks in 2012 showed that happy employees are 3 times more creative, sales increase by 37%, and productivity by 31%. Redesigning office spaces, introducing team yoga lessons and better food all help with morale in the short term, but it’s the long term restructuring that’s going to make the biggest impact.
Shorter days in the office means a happier, healthier and more productive workforce. What have we got to lose?