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4 Reasons Why the Smartest Companies Ditch the 8-Hour Workday

by | Apr 3, 2017 | HR, Management

For years the eight-hour workday has been a customary aspect of the American workplace. That’s based on an effort during the Industrial Age that encouraged companies to limit their long work hours, typically 10-16 hour days.

While this change may have been a godsend to the overworked factory workers in those days, it’s not working too well anymore. Today’s employees are becoming tired and unproductive. The more we learn about productivity, the more we know that powering through eight hours of work with little to no breaks doesn’t actually lead to more work getting done.

For many companies, it’s hard to let go of the eight-hour concept. It’s hard to pay employees for “less” work. However, taking the initiative and allowing employees to work fewer hours could actually let them get more work done. Here are four reasons why the smartest businesses are reducing the work time for their staff.

1. Our Brains Aren’t Designed for 8 Hours of Focused Work

Let’s be honest. When was the last time you worked for eight hours straight without any lack of productivity or distractions? For most of the working population, that’s just not realistic.

You see all humans operate based on Ultradian Rhythms, a period of biological repetitions that happen in a 24-hour period. One of those rhythms is the ideal period of work and rest. According to psychologists, our brains are programmed to work effectively for 90 minutes, followed by 20-30 minutes of rest. That period of relaxation for the brain is extremely important.

By encouraging your employees to follow this cycle and maximize the time they are working, you could actually see more work getting done in 4-6 hours than in eight.

2. More Work Means Less Sleep–And Less Mental Energy

It’s no secret that we have become a sleep-deprived society. A 2013 Gallup poll showed that 40% of Americans got less than seven hours of sleep. Since it’s recommended that adults get 8-10 hours of sleep a night, this is a concerning figure. A chronic lack of sleep can lead to a multitude of health issues, including depression and impaired brain activity.

Reducing your staff’s workday allows them more time to spend with their family, on hobbies, and anything else that might normally cut into their sleep time. Plus once they do return to work they’ll be well-rested and energized to give their all.

3. Your Employees Will Love You

Aside from the more obvious benefits, like increased productivity, your employees will likely be much more loyal to the company. A 2015 Gallup study found that when companies focus on well-being, it can really boost employee engagement.

These days, employees want more than just a paycheck. They want to feel like their company is looking out for them and actually cares about them, not just the work they produce. While there is a myriad of benefits that you can give your staff, shorter work days is a benefit that is not widely offered and can really make a difference in your employees’ lives.

4. Shorter Workweeks Can Reduce Costs

Depending on the type of business you have, shortening the work day could even reduce business expenses. If you have the office open every weekday for eight or more hours, but employees are not actually working that entire time, it could be costing you.

A study in Sweden tested how nurses in a retirement home behaved when their work day was reduced from eight to six hours. The results were staggering. The nurses with six-hour work days took half as much sick time as those with eight-hour days.

An unplanned absence can really throw a wrench in business plans and when work isn’t getting done and teams don’t have all of their members. This can become especially costly when you multiply those unplanned absences by each employee.

When your staff has shorter workdays, they’ll have more time to spend on things that improve their mental, physical, and emotional health. Then they won’t need to take days off as often to recover from the taxing workweek.

Over to You

Has your company considered reducing the eight-hour workday for employees? What do you think are the pros and cons in this scenario? Comment below and share your thoughts!

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