9-to-5 grind is not a guarantee for good results
I’ve been on holiday. You won’t have known that because I wrote all my pieces in advance before I left. Like many people of my age, I was brought up not to disappoint others. So I usually end up disappointing myself. But holidays are good because you relax and recharge, and perhaps most importantly you reflect.
I reflected that when you bear, as I do, the cross of diligence, you submit willingly to the nine-to-five grind. Even though the information age represents the biggest shift since the industrial revolution, our growing millennial workforce still finds it hard to break norms set by Western industrialists two centuries ago.
Workers still get onto public transport or private cars every morning to clog up the highways. Then they do it again at night. Mondays are dreaded. Wednesdays are the midweek hump. Only Friday mornings bring relief.
The other thing I do on holiday is read. Not the historical non-fiction that is constantly boiling in my reading pot. Nor the airport thrillers I used to consume for relief. These days I browse anything that looks interesting. I read a blog by a US chief executive who has moved his company to a five-hour workday. Everyone he employs works from 8am to 1pm. By eliminating an hour-long lunch, they only reduce their work time by two hours. His employees don’t get paid less.
The results have been astounding, says Stephan Aarstol: “Last year, we were named the fastest-growing private company in San Diego. This year, our nine-person team will generate $9 million revenue.” Aarstol makes paddle boards for people who enjoy the surf; his brand plays in the beach lifestyle category. “So a shorter day that frees employees’ afternoons for extraordinary living is a natural brand fit.” Aha, brand centric behaviour finally impacts the HR handbook! Aarstol cites three reasons why you can reduce working hours by 30 per cent and maintain productivity:
Humans are not machines: Just because you’re at your desk for eight hours doesn’t mean you’re being productive. Even the best employees probably only accomplish two to three hours of actual work. The five-hour day is about managing human energy more efficiently, by working in bursts over a shorter period.
Happiness boosts productivity: Studies show that happier workers are more productive, and it makes sense. Having time to pursue your passions, nurture your relationships, and stay active gives you more energy emotionally and physically.
Fewer hours create scarcity: Having less time creates periods of heightened productivity called “focus dividends”. A five-hour workday forces you to prioritise high-value activities.
So I’m back from my holiday. Have I committed to a five-hour workday? No, but I am thinking about the times of day when I am productive and the times when I am not. I’ll keep you posted.