Archive | May, 2016

Is the 6 hour work week around the corner?

25 May

Why do we 8 hours or more a day? Because we always have done!

Why have we always done? I think Henry Ford came up with it!

Why did Henry think 8 hours was best? He wanted to give his workers free time to realize they needed to buy stuff.

Was it not something scientific that he had based on improving worker health and wellbeing? Not really but Ford thought “It is high time to rid ourselves of the notion that leisure for workmen is either ‘lost time’ or a class privilege.” Henry Ford cut the working week from 6 to 5 days, doubled the wages from $2.34 for a nine-hour day to $5.00 for an eight-hour day and in return gained greater productivity. The results spoke for themselves. Workplaces quickly followed suit maybe not doubling the wages but shortening the working day and week.

Now it seems it is time to question the 8 hour working day. Do we really work for the whole 8 hours or more we are in work? To be honest it’s unlikely. We become our most creative and imaginative when we are looking for outlets that are not work. We spend ages with Dave trying to fix the photo copier feeder when really we have no clue how it works simply because it feels better than working( and it looks like work) . We volunteer to nip to the coffee shop down the road for everyone because it’s a break from work ,something interesting could happen on the way and it is work related so technically it’s work but with more chance of excitement. Many of us would quite happily volunteer to  jump in the car if needed and travel for an hour to deliver a package to the other side of the city  if it was urgent. Tunes on the radio and a new visual landscape . Happy days.

Although for some of us work is engaging and stimulating for many, most of the working day is spent thinking about activities we would rather be doing than sitting at this desk. Or we engage in activities that take us away from that working space in our head, social media updates on our laptop/Phone, online news feeds, emails from friends, researching and booking holidays etc. The truth is for most workers we would rather be somewhere else doing something different.

We could create a workplace like Google with all the benefits of free food , ergonomics and workplace stimuli but that can create burnout and it’s not home. As much as we would like to create positive relationships with our co-workers, they are no replacement for our family(or maybe they are).

Why not create a work environment where people can be their best, play to their strengths and simply go home. Jason Friend of Basecamp is a big proponent of shorter working weeks. “I wanted to do something about this. So, at 37signals, the software company I’ve run for the past 13 years, we take inspiration from the seasons and build change into our work schedule.

For example, from May through October, we switch to a four-day workweek. And not 40 hours crammed into four days, but 32 hours comfortably fit into four days. We don’t work the same amount of time, we work less. When there’s less time to work, you waste less time. When you have a compressed workweek, you tend to focus on what’s important. Constraining time encourages quality time

The Gothenburg experiment with the 6hr working day is trialling at the minute in Svartedalens nursing home in southern Sweden. Early reports are good.An audit published in mid-April concluded that the program in its first year had sharply reduced absenteeism, and improved productivity and worker health. A year’s worth of data from the project, which compares staff at Svartedalens with a control group at a similar facility, showed that 68 nurses who worked six-hour days took half as much sick time as those in the control group. And they were 2.8 times less likely to take any time off in a two-week period. There has been opposition from politicians.“It’s the type of economic thinking that has gotten other countries in Europe into trouble,” said Maria Rydén, Gothenburg’s deputy mayor and a member of the opposition Moderates party. She is leading a campaign to kill the trial, citing high taxpayer costs and arguments that the government should not intrude in the workplace.

We can’t pay people to not work,” she added.

Workers in a nearby Toyota service centre have been working a 6 hour working day for the past 13 years with no plans to reverse it. The benefits to the workers and service centre are too evident. Greater production over 6 hours rather than 8 and more family downtime to do activities in life that make us happier.

Asking your staff what would work for them to become more productive might surprise you. A shorter working week as a trial might not be a bad thing. One Friday a month and see if the world stops turning. Or one week of working 30 hours per month. We are imaginative beings and ultimately flexibility is the key to the future workplace if we want to survive. Use that imagination.

Netflix embraced the flexible workplace years ago.” We should focus on what people get done., not how many hours or days worked. Just as we don’t have a 9-5 policy we don’t need a vacation policy” said Patty MCcord who is feted with creating the culture within Netflix. “There is a no clothing policy at Netflix but no one turns up to work naked.” In 2015 Netflix also announced that all employees would be entitled to unlimited parental leave at their choosing. Can we begin to seesaw trust is becoming a major factor in the new workplaces. Think about this are your best relationships and friendships with people you trust and can communicate well with or with people who you fear and openly distrust. The answer is here.

If you are willing to spend your weekend responding to worker texts and emails be prepared to embrace a shorter, flexible and more productive working week.

I started this article with the 3 Why’s that helps you look at what you do from a more crtical position. So start with this at your next meeting.

Why do we think that a 40 hour week is our only option?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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