Could Less Hours Make For Safer, Happier, And More Productive Workplaces
Work hours directly correlate to productivity, and more work hours do not always mean higher productivity. According to research, it could be the other way round. U.S and Canadian workers have been ranked as the world’s most stressed in the world, with an average of 8-work hours a day.
This contrasts with Scandinavian countries, like Finland and Norway, which have a record of fewer working hours, high safety standards, more productivity, and high happiness ratings. This shows that indeed, fewer hours do make for safer, happier, and more productive workplaces.
Benefits of Fewer Work Hours
More work hours lead to employees being overworked, disoriented, stressed, and sleep-deprived. These factors, in turn, lead to low quality work, less productivity, low customer satisfaction, high turnover, and reduced profits.
These are some of the benefits of fewer working hours:
- Work-Life Balance
When employees are working for fewer hours, they will have enough time to spend with their families. Finishing work early will enable them to pick up kids from school, make meals, have quality bonding time as a family, and interact more.
This gives employees satisfaction with their work, knowing that they can easily balance their lives.
- Higher Productivity
Fewer work hours mean that the time which employees used to complete a task has been reduced. This makes them more efficient as they will find ways to try and complete the same task in a shorter period.
Having no time to waste but just enough time to complete work leads to more productivity and less slacking.
- Less Absenteeism & Leave Requests
When employees are overworked, they tend to be more stressed, which ultimately impacts their health. Absenteeism becomes frequent as they need time to feel better and regroup for work. Leave requests are also common because employees prefer staying away from work to being at work.
Less work hours lower the stress levels and fatigue in employees. They have enough time to unwind every day, which enables them to engage better with their colleagues.
Less work hours give them enough time to spend with their families and friends. This makes frequent leaves no longer necessary. They are even happy to come to work each day.
- Motivated & Energized Employees
Less time spend at work gives employees more free time. This free time can be used to do activities they otherwise would not have engaged in, like going to the gym or taking a yoga class. Healthy activities like these promote healthy lifestyles.
Employees become energized and motivated for the next day at work. This leads to happy individuals who are more productive than overworked individuals who are disengaged from their work.
- Less Mistakes & Higher Workplace Safety
Employees working for long hours are bound to get tired, which leads them to make mistakes at work. They could operate machines the wrong way, which can cause serious accidents. They could also have grave errors in their work, leading to client dissatisfaction and business losses.
Short working hours give employees enough time to rest, relax, and recharge. This enhances workplace safety because employees are operating with more clarity and focus.
- Attract Top Talent & Reduce Turnover
A workplace offering fewer working hours with good benefits will be preferable to a job offering more working hours plus good benefits. Young people are currently taking up jobs that are flexible even if they have low benefits.
Fewer work hours give a company an edge over the competition. Top talent will be more interested in working there, which brings in higher returns. Turnover in the company will also be much lower compared to a company that is overworking its employees.
- Lower Carbon Footprint
Less working hours mean less use of machines and less commuting. This, in turn, leads to a low carbon footprint which is good for the environment.
According to a study, if work hours are reduced by 10%, the carbon footprint would be lowered by 14.6%. If work hours are reduced by 25%, an equivalent of one and a quarter days, it would be reduced by 36.6%.
How To Implement Less Working Hours In The Workplace
After learning of all the benefits that come with less working hours, how do you go about implementing less work hours for your employees? Here are tips on how to have a smooth transition:
- Time Tracking
Technology is on a roll, and there are all kinds of software available to track working hours. Make them your friend. Pick the one that best suits your type of business, number of employees, and feels more convenient for you.
A time tracking software will enable you and your managers to track the time employees are using on certain tasks. This will give you an idea of how much work-time you can reduce. You will also see who can complete tasks faster and who can take up extra time.
- Better Communication Channels
Communication within a business structure is very monumental to how operations run. The right communication channels can make or break a business. Lack of communication can lead to work not being done on time, work done the wrong way, lack of teamwork and coordination, and ultimately huge losses.
Create better communication channels in your company. Let each individual know who they should speak to whenever an issue arises. Allow everyone to be open and share their ideas on various issues concerning work.
Managers should also have a clue of what is happening in the personal lives of employees. For instance, mothers with small children may require some flexibility. Communication helps everyone to be clear and to get the support they need to increase productivity.
- Measuring Productivity
Initiate a way of measuring productivity in all the employees. Some people may be spending more time on their desks but having little productivity. Measuring productivity is a good way of recognizing slacking employees and replacing them with more hard-working ones.
Knowing that they have to be accountable for their productivity levels will make employees more conscientious with their time. It will get rid of non-work-related activities like office gossip and social media use. This will boost productivity within shorter hours.
- Keeping Pay Constant
When you decide to reduce employees’ work hours, consider all factors to see whether that will affect profits. A trial can be a good start before making it a company policy. This will enable you to see whether your income is still the same, more or less.
Reducing work hours will not be motivating or very much welcome if you are going to cut your employees’ pay. Remember that employees depend on their salaries for survival, so avoid cutting the pay if your employees are working for shorter hours. The probability is that the profits will remain constant or go higher.
However, if you want to implement less work hours and lower pay, prepare everyone first. Let them air out their views about receiving lower pay on the condition of working for less hours. Employees could still gladly agree to it.
- Choosing the Right Implementation (Less Hours vs. Less Days)
When reducing the work hours of employees, there are two main ways to go about it. You can decide to have them work for less hours a day or for less days a week. Less hours a day can mean reducing work time from 8 hours to 6 hours.
Norway has this work approach. Businesses close at 4 p.m., and parents can pick kids up from school. Less workdays mean deducting a day from the week, so there is a free day.
Instead of the usual 5 days a week, employees can work for only 4 days a week. This means that employees will be highly productive during the 4 days they are at work to cover for the one day they are off work.
- Involving Employees in the Planning
Involving your employees in the planning process is a good way of going about reducing work hours. The whole team can come up with strategies they think will work best for them.
That is the approach that New Zealand’s Perpetual Guardian took. With over 200 staff, the company developed ideas of being more productive, like keeping their phones away.
The company was able to implement a 4-day work week with all the benefits of a 5-day workweek. There was a 20% rise in productivity, improved staff well-being, and an increase in profits.
Have your employees give their suggestions and ideas of how to work around the less hours. Commitment and enthusiasm will lead to success in the long run.
More working hours are sometimes related to higher productivity. Many employers will even prefer employees who put in the extra time, sweat, and energy in their work. However, more research shows that the opposite is actually correct.
More work hours bring about burnout, work disengagement, unhappiness, less productivity, and high turnover. In total contrast, less work hours lead to highly productive employees who are happy, motivated, energized, and willing to give their best.