Killing The 40-Hour Work Week – Time to re­think the old 9 to 5

Has the time come to re­think how em­ploy­ees are paid?

Business Traveler (USA) - - INSIDE - Amanda Men­doza

It’s not news that the 40-hour work­week is dead. Gone is the no­tion that em­ploy­ees are most pro­duc­tive when they are at their desks from 9 to 5 Mon­days through Fri­days. We know now that hu­mans are dif­fer­ent; some do their best work at 6 AM and oth­ers get the most done at 6 PM. So how can the tra­di­tional 40-hour work­week be re­struc­tured to re­store a more healthy work-life bal­ance?

One big prob­lem is un­der­stand­ing that work­ers aren’t re­ally work­ing only 40 hours. The de­vices that keep them con­nected to their friends and fam­ily also keep them con­nected to work.

This al­ways-on mode pro­voked French of­fi­cials to pass a law that, as of Jan­uary 1, 2017, em­ploy­ers are re­quired to make clear their ex­pec­ta­tions for how em­ploy­ees should be avail­able out­side of work hours.

The trick is that the law re­quires only clar­i­fi­ca­tion. Em­ploy­ers just have to ex­plain the rules; it’s up to the em­ploy­ees to agree to the rules and con­tinue to work there, or quit. While the law hasn’t made any large-scale change (so far), it has prompted di­a­logue about the is­sue.

And none too soon, since re­cent stud­ies in­di­cate that 40-hour work­weeks might be more haz­ardous for our health than we think, caus­ing fa­tigue- and stress-re­lated ill­nesses.

As a con­se­quence, com­pa­nies – par­tic­u­larly star­tups – are tak­ing a chance on some in­ter­est­ing al­ter­na­tives to the tra­di­tional work sched­ule which are be­ing tried out across the globe: • Flex­i­ble start/end times: Avoid­ing rush hour means in­creased pro­duc­tiv­ity for work­ers since they spend less time in tran­sit. Less time com­mut­ing gives back large por­tions of the day to em­ploy­ees who oth­er­wise lose hours sit­ting in traf­fic. • Sea­sonal changes: If busi­ness is slower dur­ing cer­tain times of the year, con­sol­i­date the work­week. For ex­am­ple, a 10-hour work­day Mon­day-Thurs­day with Fri­day off dur­ing the sum­mer. •“Comp Time ”This so­lu­tion in­volves chang­ing the work­week

from 40 hours to 35 hours, but with a salary that matches those 35 hours. This can also be ar­ranged to squeeze 12 hours out of a 3-day week. • Shorter work­days: A 2015 Swedish ex­per­i­ment de­creased the work­day from 8 hours to 6 hours. While work­ers were men­tally health­ier and hap­pier, more had to be hired to com­plete the work. The jury’s still out, but so far re­sults sug­gest work­ers aren’t get­ting the same amount of work done in those 6 hours. • Un­lim­ited va­ca­tion: Those words sound awe­some, but in re­al­ity, “un­lim­ited” doesn’ t re­ally mean “un­lim­ited .” Work­ers ar­range with col­leagues and man­agers to take what­ever time off they want (time that is not tracked by man­agers). It’s pos­si­ble for em­ploy­ees to take the time off that they need, but man­agers say that they would frown upon any­thing more than a few weeks. All of these al­ter­na­tive work­weeks add up to one ma­jor ex­is­ten­tial ques­tion: How should we be mea­sur­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity? If hours don’t nec­es­sar­ily equate to re­sults (be­cause the em­ploy­ees have flex­i­bil­ity in achiev­ing those re­sults), then what is the ef­fec­tive met­ric of the em­ployee’s con­tri­bu­tion?

In a round­table dis­cus­sion, DATA BA­SICS di­rec­tor of busi­ness analysis Tor­b­jorn Nilsen sug­gested a $1 bil­lion op­por­tu­nity: a shar­ing econ­omy re­source man­age­ment so­lu­tion, “a sys­tem that al­lows you to plan and man­age progress against that al­ter­na­tive unit of mea­sure.”

The busi­ness cli­mate will con­tinue to change; so­cial val­ues, po­lit­i­cal ide­olo­gies, eco­nomic fac­tors and com­pany strate­gies will guar­an­tee that. How­ever no mat­ter what drives these changes, such a re­port­ing part­ner needs to have the flex­i­bil­ity to re­spond to them. As your com­pany looks at new ways to mea­sure em­ployee con­tri­bu­tion, you need a ro­bust so­lu­tion to­day. But your re­port­ing part­ner’s tools need flex­i­bil­ity for to­mor­row, no mat­ter how your com­pany chooses to de­fine the work­week. BT

Amanda Canupp Men­doza is a writer at DATA BA­SICS, a provider of in­no­va­tive Time & Ex­pense soft­ware. Visit data-ba­sics.com for more in­for­ma­tion.

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