One of our most frequently asked questions is, “So is anyone else on this shorter workday bandwagon?” And the answer is - yes!
There are several modern and historical examples of people who intentionally structured their workday to reflect shorter, more concentrated hours of effective activity. Research shows that our productivity wanes the longer we’re at work, and in our digital age, we end up spending more time managing our work than actually doing it. (How many emails are in your inbox right now? Too many? That’s what we thought!) That’s why a shorter workday that manages to outcomes instead of time clocked makes the most of your brain power and gives you back the valuable time you’re losing to unproductive tasks.
In the Nineteenth Century, Charles Darwin did the bulk of his work from 8 a.m. to noon, with a brief break between “sprints” of concentrated effort to deal with correspondence. He then took a long lunch with his family, spent time outside, and socialized in the evening. Charles Darwin is one of the most accomplished naturalists in history and known universally for his work on evolution. If he can attain the decorated career he did in just four hours each day, think of all you could do emulating his daily routine!
Another famous Charles, Charles Dickens, was known to work from 9 in the morning until 2 in the afternoon with a break from lunch. He also found a four-hour workday fostered the best concentration and creativity, helping him pen some of the most well-known novels in society.
But what about today? We’re constantly connected through our laptops and cell phones; there’s no way we could tackle our long to-do lists in just four hours a day, right? Wrong! One of the leading voices in the conversation around a shorter workday is Stephen Aarstol, founder of Tower Paddleboards and author of The Five-Hour Workday. He moved his entire company to an 8-to-1 schedule, including sales and customer service, letting his employees enjoy surfing or other hobbies and side hustles in the afternoon. Meanwhile, the company continues to grow and attract some of the best talent.
Sweden is piloting a 6-hour workday in three different settings: a nursing home, a factory, and a hospital. Preliminary results show higher productivity and happier employees. Happier employees means less turnover and more satisfied clients, boosting your bottom line. Other companies are cluing into this, too: Jason Fried, founder of Basecamp, will be releasing his latest book titled The Calm Company later this year. They write in their synopsis of the book:
You’d think with all the hours people are putting in, and all the promises of tech’s flavor of the month, the load would be lessening. It’s not. It’s getting heavier.
But the thing is, there’s not more work to be done all of the sudden. The problem is there’s hardly any uninterrupted, dedicated time to do it.
Working more but getting less done? It doesn’t add up. But it does — it adds up to a majority of time wasted on things that don’t matter.
We couldn’t agree more. The key to a successful organization isn’t hustle for hustle’s sake, it’s a calmer workday: “uninterrupted, dedicated time” to work hard and accomplish your goals, and then turning off the computer and getting outside or spending time with loved ones.
Finally, people want to work less - not because they are lazy, or because they don’t need the financial incentives, but because excessively long work days with no boundaries leads to physical and mental exhaustion and ultimately, burn out. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 78 percent of today’s part-time workers choose to work less than full time for noneconomic reasons, meaning 20.5 million Americans are working fewer than 35 hours each week so they can focus on school, family or personal obligations, or other priorities.
So if you’re interested in streamlining your workplace structure by implementing a workday that manages to outcomes and reduces wasted time, you’re not alone. Next month, we’ll look at some of the research behind why a shorter workday makes sense. If you’re interested in working with us to optimize your workplace for better results and happier employees, contact us today!