Think a five-hour workday sounds like a crazy idea? There's plenty of evidence that it will actually help your team get more done in less time, and be happier while doing it. After all, recent research shows that on average we waste a whopping 61 percent of our workdays. Plus, there's precedent.
Over in Sweden, one local government mandated a six-hour day for a slice of public sector employees. So far with great results (though the experiment is still relatively new). And even here in the U.S. companies from scrappy startups to behemoths like Amazon are experimenting with shortened workweeks.
All of which bolsters the case that your people could probably do the same amount of work a lot more efficiently. But if you're buying this argument, exactly how do you proceed? You can't just come in one day and announce that everyone can go home at 2pm. (Can you?)
Nope, says Stephan Aarstol, founder and CEO of paddleboard company Tower, in a recent Business Insider post. In the piece, Aarstol discusses his company's transition from a traditional 40-hour week to abbreviated hours, outlining the many ways the new schedule has been successful, and also offering a handy five-step process for other business leaders considering following in his footsteps.
1. Apply the Pareto Principle.
According to this famous dictum, 80 percent of your results generally come from 20 percent of your effort. Aarstol is a staunch believer in the idea. He says the first step to cutting your hours is to "evaluate your workday to identify those 20 percent activities and eliminate the rest."
2. Focus on outcomes, not time.
Unless your employees are standing on an assembly line, hours don't matter -- only results count. Enshrine that reality in your HR policies. "To help my team shift to a production mindset, I rolled out a profit-sharing plan where 5 percent of profits are doled out to employees who demonstrate exemplary productivity," writes Aarstol.
3. Communicate your new hours to customers.
This one could vary by industry, but in the relatively slow-paced world of paddleboards, the only impediment to a cut in customer service hours was getting over the mindset that you need to be always available and then communicating the new reality to customers.
"I realized that we didn't run a convenience store. Our customers bought new paddleboards maybe once every five years. It didn't matter when we were open as long as our customers knew our hours," notes Aarstol. "So we made the switch, and nothing fell apart. We still get roughly the same number of calls each day, and emails are usually answered within hours."
4. Get the right tech.
If you're going to radically cut your work hours, you need to squeeze as much productivity out of the time you are at the office as possible. The right tech can help massively. Here's how that went down at Tower:
To allow our warehouse and customer service employees to work 30 percent less (without growing our staff), we had to figure out how to serve the same number of customers in less time.
The obvious solution was leveraging automation. In the warehouse, we reduced our packing and shipping time using software. In customer service, we overhauled our frequently asked questions page and created video tutorials to help customers help themselves.
What tools could help you get the same amount of the stuff done in a third less time?
5. Don't watch the clock.
It's silly to be a slave to the clock, and that holds whether you're worried about being at the office too little or too much. Even if you make the switch to a shorter workweek, there will always be some crunch times when you'll have to work more. Don't sweat this variability.
Convinced that this might just be something your company could pull off? Check out the complete Business Insider post for a lot more details.
What's holding you back from implementing a shorter workweek at your office?