Making the Most of Productivity

The 8-hour working day is a relatively new way of working. When society relied on an agrarian way of life, days were far longer and backbreaking work was never-ending. There were no vaccinations, paid lunch breaks, or water coolers to gossip around.

Then, as the industrial revolution changed technology, so did the Ford company with the introduction of shorter working hours and higher pay. It resulted in increased productivity and decreased workplace accidents.

Now, as we face the industrial revolution 4.0, many people are considering further reductions to working hours and increases in flexibility. Research suggests that in an 8-hour day, the average worker is only productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes – 3 hours of productivity, leaving 5 hours of the working day to be filled with distractions.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American is at work 8.8 hours every day, however, when asked, the more than 2,000 respondents to the survey said that they were not working for the majority of that time.

The most popular unproductive activities listed were:

  1. Reading news websites–1 hour, 5 minutes
  2. Checking social media–44 minutes
  3. Discussing non-work-related things with co-workers
  4. Searching for new jobs–26 minutes
  5. Taking smoke breaks–23 minutes
  6. Making calls to partners or friends–18 minutes
  7. Making hot drinks–17 minutes
  8. Texting or instant messaging–14 minutes
  9. Eating snacks–8 minutes
  10. Making food in office–7 minutes

The idea of reducing working hours was trialed in New Zealand and has now been introduced as the standard for the private company, Perpetual Guardian.

The estate planning company in 2018 asked their employees if they wanted to participate in the trial that would see them work only 30 hours per week for the same pay, but need to produce the same amount of work as they would in a 37.5 hour week.

A year later, the majority of the staff at the company choose a 30-hour working week. Work hours and days are flexible and, according to the company founder, productivity levels are high as are employee work satisfaction and wellbeing rates.

However, not all employers agree that improving conditions for workers are in the best interest of all involved. While some industries are obviously unsuited to such flexibility, other critics say the changes would be too difficult and costly to implement.

One UK report estimated that change of policy would cost the public sector at least 17 billion pounds. This one-off cost, when weighed against the long-term benefits of improved health and wellbeing and easing of pressures on public healthcare systems, does not seem to deter critics who see only the short term costs.

The overriding evidence suggests that at least for private sector employers who want to reduce their employees working hours, they will see improved revenues, increased staff loyalty, and the ability to attract higher-quality recruits.

A reduction in stress levels and sick days will also boost productivity, which according to the NZ company after their 2018 trial, had risen 30-40{735f2e4b65c3f1982e3012daf49d8651419bebdced28f8d40dc0564cadc91c3b}, while Internet surfing dropped 35{735f2e4b65c3f1982e3012daf49d8651419bebdced28f8d40dc0564cadc91c3b} during in-office hours, with people improving their time management, holding shorter meetings and signaling if they do not want to be disturbed.

Improve the way your team can work and play is beneficial to your business. Employees who are engaged with their work, well-rested, and who have a good work-life balance are likely to become long-term employees who offer your company value in their loyalty, skills, productivity, and commitment to your vision.

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