Richard Walton is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Cape Town and Founder of AVirtual, a service that provides virtual personal assistants. We asked Richard about his thoughts on the traditional five-day workweek. Here's what he had to say.
The idea that working longer hours means working harder and achieving more has been a corporate mantra for decades. Where has that gotten us? Stressed out, burnt out and quite frankly, exhausted. For most of us, a long weekend is a luxury. For some people, though, it's part of their normal workweek. And before you ask, yes, they still earn full-time salaries. A growing number of companies are realizing that four-day workweeks can improve office morale, productivity and positively impact the bottom line. How is that possible? Because by providing employees with more time to relax and unwind, they feel refreshed and energized to tackle the challenges their workdays bring.
Since I started my first business 20 years ago, the pace of work has increased exponentially. Technology has transformed communication; iPads, iPhones and laptops enable employees to work all hours of the day and night. While this should be a boon for companies in achieving rapid growth, it's bad news for employees who are expected to be constantly "switched on" whether in the office or not. This results in high stress levels, negative feelings and significantly decreased productivity. According to a Salary.com survey, more than 89% of U.S. workers admit to wasting at least 30 minutes each day at work--some even admit to wasting several hours. As a business owner, that means you're effectively paying your employees not to work. It's a striking appeal for a dramatic change in how we conduct business.
Will lowering the number of days spent in the office per week help? There's evidence that it can. Ryan, a Dallas-based tax services firm, implemented flexible workweeks in 2008 and has since doubled profits while receiving multiple "Best Place to Work" awards.
Basecamp, a project management software provider, introduced a four-day workweek for individuals who have been with the company for at least a year. CEO Jason Fried said, "When you have less time, you tend to compress stuff out that doesn't matter."
Of course, this bold move comes with risks and demands. The hiring process becomes more selective as companies implementing such policies require a highly committed workforce, rather than employees who spend half an hour in the kitchen making tea, chatting on their phones or internet shopping. But by putting greater emphasis on work accomplished rather than hours served, employees are more likely to try to achieve targets rather than just watching the clock until closing time. An additional benefit: Flexible workweeks are a perk that can help to attract and retain top talent.
What's more, when you trust employees to work shorter but more concentrated hours, tasks are completed more quickly, increasing the overall development of a company's growth and an employee's sense of accomplishment as they strike joyfully through their to-do list. Employees leave work feeling lighter and more optimistic. Work, for once, really can be left at the door.
I believe that most people like to work, but the monotony of the daily grind obliterates employee enthusiasm and dedication. Perhaps a more fluid workweek is the answer; it would inspire each individual to pace their achievements and progress, which drives success at both the personal and corporate level.
Reusser Design, a web development agency in Indiana, is another successful example. The company extended its working hours from 6:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m., but they only work a four-day "compressed" week.
Andy Welfle, Content Strategist at Reusser Design, explained that, "Longer work days mean more concentration time, and that, paired with a conscious effort to minimize interruptions, means more productive days." He added, "When we eliminate distractions or tackle their source, we can be just as productive in four days as we can in five days. In fact, we find that we're just a little more productive."
Enhanced productivity and less time in the office--now we're talking. I doubt many people look back on their lives wishing they'd spent more time at the office. After all, life is about exploration, enjoyment and learning. We could all do with breathing a bit more fresh air, creativity and fun. Best of all, shorter weeks are proven to be good for business. When is your next three-day weekend?