A 6-Hour Work­day

Enterprise - - Contents -

Our busi­ness days are struc­tured, typ­i­cally, around an eight-hour day — most com­monly called the “9 to 5.” That stretches back gen­er­a­tions now, and is also con­nected to the five-day work­week. Over­all, work­ing 40 hours per week has be­come the stan­dard and what we typ­i­cally re­fer to as full-time em­ploy­ment.

How­ever, if you’re like a lot of 9 to 5 work­ers, you prob­a­bly spend a good amount of time at work sim­ply run­ning out the clock. Many of us waste an enor­mous amount of time at work — ei­ther be­cause we stretch out our as­signed tasks to con­form to ex­pec­ta­tions, or con­versely, be­cause we’re hav­ing is­sues with pro­duc­tiv­ity. In­ter­est­ingly enough, re­search is emerg­ing that sug­gests the tra­di­tional eight-hour day may be one thing that is due for a change; and it can ben­e­fit both em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees.

The prospec­tive change? Morph the eight-hour work­day into six.

The idea is be­ing tried out in a Swedish re­tire­ment home, where nurses have been ex­per­i­ment­ing with work­ing shorter days to see the ef­fect on ef­fi­ciency and qual­ity of work. The re­sults are promis­ing —pro­duc­tiv­ity is up, turnover is down, and over­all, the nurses are much hap­pier with their new level of work-life bal­ance.

“For a long time, politi­cians have been com­pet­ing to say we must cre­ate more jobs with longer hours – work has be­come an end in it­self,” Roland Paulsen, a re­searcher in busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion at the Univer­sity of Lund told. “But pro­duc­tiv­ity has dou­bled since the 1970s, so tech­ni­cally we even have the po­ten­tial for a four-hour work­ing day. It is a ques­tion of how th­ese pro­duc­tiv­ity gains are dis­trib­uted. It did not used to be utopian to cut work­ing hours – we have done this be­fore.”

An im­por­tant caveat — the nurses are work­ing for the same wages as they were be­fore. So es­sen­tially, they were given an hourly raise. But the com­pany that em­ploys them is get­ting more bang for its buck, in terms of out­put.

This, of course, would be a hard sell for em­ploy­ers. Most com­pa­nies are con­stantly look­ing for ways to be­come more lean and de­fer costs, not give em­ploy­ees more money for what ul­ti­mately would be less time on the job. But again, the im­por­tant thing that the Swedish ex­per­i­ment is re­veal­ing is that pro­duc­tiv­ity was ac­tu­ally up among those who adopted shorter work days, not down.

So, em­ploy­ers are get­ting more for their money from their em­ploy­ees. And, just as im­por­tantly, em­ploy­ees are hap­pier with their work ar­range­ments, which mean a less turnover. A less turnover means fewer ex­penses for find­ing, hir­ing, and re­tain­ing new em­ploy­ees. It looks like a win-win.

The ques­tion is, are there busi­nesses out there who would be will­ing to give it a shot? It’s a pos­si­bil­ity for some smaller com­pa­nies and start-ups, but see­ing cor­po­rate world adopt a new sched­ul­ing model that in­cludes shav­ing two hours off of each em­ploy­ees’ work­day — all while com­pen­sat­ing them the same — seems un­likely, at least at this point.

But that’s not to say that busi­nesses haven’t been will­ing to ex­per­i­ment with th­ese types of changes be­fore. There are plenty of peo­ple who work four days a week, ten hours per day, for ex­am­ple. There are even jobs that al­low for flex­i­ble hours, as long as em­ploy­ees ful­fil their tasks.

One other change we might see even­tu­ally is the ad­di­tion of an­other day to our week­ends. This is some­thing we’ve cov­ered be­fore — four-day, or even three-day week­ends are in­evitable in the eyes of some busi­ness lead­ers. They al­low for em­ploy­ees to have more free time, which ul­ti­mately trans­lates to higher lev­els of pro­duc­tiv­ity and health­ier life­styles — both good things for em­ploy­ees and em­ploy­ers alike.

There are, of course, a myr­iad of is­sues to over­come be­fore we can even think about see­ing th­ese changes im­ple­mented on an econ­omy-wide spec­trum. But with au­to­ma­tion quickly com­ing down the pipe­line, and the need for fewer peo­ple in the labour pool, shorter work­days and work­weeks are likely to be­come a hot topic of con­ver­sa­tion in the near fu­ture.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.