Is The 6-Hour Work Day the Next Step in the HR Evolution?

Productive and efficient work days is the dream of any company. At some point in history, the more hours you invested the more productivity your company gained from you. But today we’ve come to make drastic changes in the work day bringing them down to a standard of an 8-hour work day almost world-wide. You can read more on how we got to an 8-hour week day in the first place on the Jason Hanold WordPress Blog. For starters, many things have changed with the work force and the technology they use in and out of the workplace, not to mention the inclusion of millennials. All of these factors will have a big role in determining how effective workers are nowadays, what makes them less effective in the hours they have available to work, and in fact what would make them more effective. Companies are becoming more and more aware of excluding corporate behaviors like after work emails, which keeps employees connected to their work even after they’ve put in 8 hours that same day. This in turn is leading to employees who get distracted in other activities during their work day, because their work activities are distracting them from their personal lives. Additionally, you’ll find very impressive experiments going on around the world that are demonstrating how employees can actually be more efficient than in the standard 8-hour work day we are using the in the states right now.

How many of the 8 hours in a work day do employees actually work?

Many people have weighed in on this one, but most will agree that it ranges from 2.5 hours to 8 hours of truly productive “work” during a working day. Most employees will dedicate some of this time to activities like brainstorming, writing reports, designing, creating, making a presentation, working on spreadsheets, among other strictly work related activities. There are other activities that also make up part of that time, and are even considered to take up more than the previously mentioned, like work-related phone calls, meetings, commuting to and from work meetings and reading relevant articles or blogs. With this in mind, then what do they do the other hours in the work day? Well, this is where social media, surfing the internet, chatting with friends either in real life or via WhatsApp or Skype, coffee breaks, smoking breaks, and other activities that are not obviously not work-related.

Employees at our headquarters in Vevey_6-Hour Work Day_jason hanold_human resources_workforce

Image courtesy of Nestlé at Flickr.com

How companies can make employees’ lives better?

Many companies and countries are getting on board with different strategies to make their employees’ lives better. This is occurring through different strategies from perks to vacation time to maternity or paternity leaves and even with workdays with less hours.  In France, for example there is a movement that is limiting emails after work hours, where since 2014 labor unions and corporations have agreed to disconnect communication tools after working hours. Since it’s not a law, each company will be able to implement the strategy as they wish, but it is a clear sign that there is a clear concern over how time is spent after working hours. Germany is another example of this, but in this country companies like BMW, Blackberry and Volkswagen have been turning servers off at the end of the work day since 2011. They spoke out saying that this was done because in the long run these employees will burn out. Brazil, on the other hand, implemented strategies like 41 paid vacation days, 11 of those are public holidays and the rest the employee can choose what to with them. Finland has incentives for parents, where they offer a subsidized childcare service, as well as a similar incentive as Brazil where employees get 40 days off a year.

The experiments going on around the world

In terms of workday hours, Sweden was one of the first countries to run an experiment, which reduced their working hours to 6. They have found that beyond simply reducing the number of hours the work force is in the office, it is improving the worker’s health, productivity and has even reduced absenteeism. 30-hour weeks have proven to have many benefits, even though there are still companies that are quite concerned about this strategy because they feel that they can’t pay workers for not working, it has continued to move ahead and spread across Europe. In the companies that have changed over to 6-hour workdays, they have noticed that employees focus much more and truly invest this time to their work activities. Besides this, employees are very happy with knowing that they work from 8:30-11:30, have a one-hour lunch and come back to finish their day in three hours. Leaving the office at 3:30, allowing them to take advantage of personal activities during the day has really increased employee happiness and health. Some companies that have this working schedule have even announced an increase in revenue and yearly profits. All around, maybe it’s time to reevaluate how many hours we work and effective we actually are. There may be other solutions like telecommuting, flexible working hours or this 6-hour workday initiative, but the fact is most workplaces are in need of a change.

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