You may be paying your employees for an eight-hour day, but the truth is most of them are doing about two-three hours of real work, and just taking all day to do it. Stephan Aarstol, co-founder and CEO of Tower Paddle Boards, says a ton of time is squandered throughout the day and even that productivity is faked to avoid the risk of getting fired.
In response to these facts, Aarstol cut his employees' workday to just five hours. The catch? With increased pressure to perform, employees had to teach themselves to be highly productive. If they couldn't do it they would be fired, but his team met the challenge--and loved it. "With our five-hour workday, we've created a workweek better than most people's vacation weeks," says Aarstol. "Our workers have moved into a world of abundance, not scarcity, because we've massively shifted their quality of life by giving them the only scarce thing left... their time."
Aarstol outlines the specifics in his book, The Five-Hour Workday. By using the five-hour workday, the company was able to become one of the fastest growing in the nation. Here's a preview of the theory he suggests in our recent interview.
Why does the five-hour workday make sense for the type of work we do today?
SA: The onset of the information age massively shifted the levels of knowledge in workers. It's similar to the dramatic shift in productivity brought about by the assembly line and the industrial revolution, but that was a change for physical labor.
The type of work done today is knowledge-work: learning, idea generation, and communication. Thanks to technology advances, all of these things can be done in a fraction of the time they took to do previously.
During the Industrial Revolution, machines massively shifted productivity of workers, yet they still worked the same long 10-16 hour days. People were literally being physically overworked to death. Today, there are symptoms all around us that we're being mentally overworked: prescription and illegal drug abuse, obesity, mental illness, burnout, a rising divorce rate, and the list goes on.
How can the five-hour workday make businesses more productive and profitable?
SA: The big lie of the knowledge-working world is that we are really doing eight hours of work in our eight-hour days. The truth is we're doing about two-three hours of real work, just taking eight hours to do it. The overwhelming majority of workers aren't even using the productivity tools that are all around them.
Constraints in business help increase efficiency and drive innovation. It's why three guys in a garage can disrupt a massive corporation. They are constrained with money and people, so they find creative hacks to compete. Those hacks that startups identify become a competitive advantage.
The five-hour workday is about applying this same constraint theory to a workforce, forcing workers to identify and use productivity tools. When implementing it, we clearly stated that employees would now work five hours a day, 8 a.m.-1 p.m., but the expected level of productivity hadn't changed. If you can't complete your work in those five hours, you need to stay as long as it takes to figure it out. If you can't figure it out, you will be fired.
As a result, workers identify and use these productivity tools. There is pressure to not waste time so things like online shopping and engaging in social media just don't happen. The pressure to perform is heightened, which has made our employees teach themselves to be highly productive, creating a competitive advantage. We can still work 60-hour workweeks when need be, but we'll do a month's work in a week.
Why does it make employees happier, healthier, more productive, and more loyal?
SA: Doing mental work is about managing energy. Happiness is the ultimate productivity tool in the knowledge-working world. The quality of their relationships is given time to improve. The quality of their health is given time to improve. They can pursue passions beyond their career, because essentially we've just made their workweek better than most people's vacation weeks. They are more loyal because they see work for what it is now, the thing that finances their extraordinary life. It's a renegotiation with your workforce. People no longer live to work, they work to live. It's a 10x change in quality of life. It lets them refocus on other important areas of living.
Will businesses that implement this attract (and retain) top talent?
SA: In the knowledge-worker world, with access to massively powerful productivity tools, the difference between one worker and another has never been more dramatic. It's a war for talent, and the top talent is not just a little bit better than average talent, they are a magnitude better.
With the five-hour workday, knowledge workers have now moved into a world of abundance, not scarcity. Beyond a certain level you can't enhance their lives with more money. But you can do so by giving them the only scarce thing left--time. And you still get their brilliant brain working to move your company forward.
Is there a low-risk way for CEO's to test this theory in their company?
SA: When our company implemented this in June of 2015, I phrased it in as summer hours for a three-month experiment, eventually introducing a five-hour workday where employees are expected to maintain levels of productivity or face termination. If we just did that three-month experiment and then went back to an eight-hour day, we'd have identified productivity hacks that can now be applied to our regular working hours. That by itself would be hugely beneficial to any company. It's temporary and risk-free. There is only upside, which only gets better when you continue with the five-hour workday throughout the year.
So what do you think? Is there a five-hour workday ahead for your team?