The subject of the 40 hour work week has been a hot topic in the last few years. Interest spiked when Sweden's government ran an experiment to increase citizen happiness through shorter working hours. The result of the study was that people claimed to be happier, less stressed and enjoyed their work more.
That raised a lot of questions about the long-standing 9-5 working hours that was instituted as the norm in the 19th century. With the changing of technology and business into the modern world, the standard working hours has continued to be upheld having been relatively unchanged since it was introduced. However, more and more founders and CEOs are modifying their working hours to maximise productivity from their employees, not only to get the highest yield of work for the wage they pay, but to increase loyalty and motivation through creating a good work-life balance .
The issues associated with a 40-hour work week
The running theme through this topic is of productivity and the fact that more hours doesn't equal higher productivity or output. Jason DeMers outlined the four main issues that support this change which is summarised as the following.
This is a common issue that is generally known and rarely addressed by many employers. If 40-hours is the minimum requirement, it implies that more hours should be worked in order to be successful or have higher output. Especially so if a business has seasonal peaks, employees will often put in extra time without compensation to show that they're committed to doing a good job. This can push people into mental exhaustion and it takes longer to recover from this state than it takes to get into it.
- Employee efficiency
It's true in school and it's true in work. Everyone learns differently and everyone works differently. There are the stereotypes that marketers like working earlier and developers like working later but the commonality between both is that they aren't productive during the whole working day. We all have different times of the day that we're productive and with a company made up of 50+ employees, it's unlikely that everyone's times will sync up. Having a mandated 9-5 schedule reduces everyone's potential efficiency.
- More distractions
Constant productivity throughout the 8 hour working day isn't realistic. When forcing themselves to concentrate and get through work, distractions will occur more often and it'll take more effort to get back into a state of concentration because a person isn't in their peak productivity period.
- Business relativity
With the peaks and lulls many businesses have through the year, some employees will have less work to do than others during the slower times, automatically killing their productivity. Also, with it being mandatory to stay in the office a full 8 hours every day overall motivation will be in rapid decline during this period. It's a waste of employee time and company money to pay for a salary of someone that isn't producing work.
Solutions to the 40 hour work week
- Flexible hours
The focus with this approach is instilling a 'core working hours' policy where employees should be in the office between certain hours of the day to ensure everyone's available for meetings and catchups. It allows employees to decide whether they come in earlier or later and work as much as they are productive for (with a minimum number of hours), giving them more control on how they build a balance with their work and personal time.
- Remote working
The hours and frequency with this approach needs to be defined by the management and CEO but effectively it gives the same control as flexible working hours. Employees are able to focus on their work without having to think about or go through the hassle of commuting. However, it requires a strong trust and discipline from both parties, from the employers side to know that employees are working and that they're supported, and from the employees side to ensure they're not distracted from things within their home or non-office environment (wherever that may be).
- Intensive hours
This approach is usually adopted during the summer when people want to make the most of the good weather. Employees start their day early and end early with around 2 hours reduced from their working day with short breaks.
These solutions are merely a base to take and mould to suit the company's needs best but the biggest thing to bear in mind when building a working culture is to focus on employees' motivation and wellbeing. The company will thrive from increased productivity because of overall happiness at work.
How to make a decision
Ultimately, every CEO, founder or upper management team needs to answer the question "How do we make sure the time spent at work is the most productive it can be?" . Which does open up another box of questions to answer. The most important things to know from your employees focuses on their motivation to work at your company since this will be the biggest factor in their overall productivity at work.
- Do they have enough work to do on a daily basis?
- Do they know the role they play in the growth of the company?
- Do they have personal or professional goals?
- Do they feel supported and rewarded for the work they do?
People work differently so it's beneficial to department managers to know how their team works because what might take one person 2 hours to do, may take another 4 hours to do. Finding the balance between task delegation within a team will ensure people feel they have enough work to do, that it's challenging and working to achieve a goal. These questions will give you an overall idea of how motivated your employees are to be productive and do good work. The quality of the environment they work in and the strength of a positive culture can be easily overlooked when times get tough, especially for startups.
This is foundation of your work policy. Based on the company and employee needs, you can build a policy that benefits both parties and succeed in creating an environment with an efficient productive output.
Why we started SanerJobs
We want companies to put a bigger focus on the well-being of employees and showcase this effort to attract the best talent they can. Coffee is a standard offering, ping pong and consoles don't add value but benefits that aid a good work-life balance to entice the best talent to join you.
Saner Jobs focuses on featuring companies that put pride in well thought out job descriptions and benefits for potential new employees. Each job post is given a work-life balance score to emphasise the importance of quality to both employers and job hunters. The scoring takes into account the working hours offered and key benefits that support employee well-being which include health insurance, holiday time, flexibility, employee training and more. Get started on your search for remote specific jobs or roles in marketing , design, software development or finance.