40-hour week

The 40-hour week. That is the number that is set as a full work week.

If you’ve ever held a full-time job here in the United States, you know that the boss will require you to work the standard 40-hour week to get paid as a full-time employee.

Now… going down memory lane here, were you productive the full 40 hours?  If you are like many other people in the workforce most likely the answer is no.  The 40 hour a week standard was implemented back during the times of industrialism when people worked in factories and manufacturing. The hours were set to prevent the bosses from overworking their employees.  Times have changed since then.

Nowadays, many work under salary and there are more office and field jobs. With the increase of tech, we spend hours on our laptop, cell phones and email. Many find themselves working around the clock or feeling burned out with just 40 hours.  Yet, much of the actual “hands-on” work can be done in under 6 hours for many employees.

Many countries and U.S. companies are now using a 6 hour a day work week and testing to see if the reduced hours and autonomous work schedule make their employees happier and boost productivity.  For example:

  • Amazon implemented a program in 2016 to allow employees work a 30-hour week at 75% of their salary.
  • Sweden and New Zealand have also implemented programs to test 32-hour work weeks as well.
  • Reusser Design offers a 32-hour work week during the summer with alternating shifts for Friday, ensuring their clients are taken care of on Friday. They also offer some employees the flexibility to set their own schedule, increasing productivity.   
So, how do you handle setting a work schedule for your team that works for your business?   

1. Set realistic expectations for your business and your team.

Before getting started with making this type of change, do your research.  Assess what your team does and the hours it takes each week to accomplish those tasks and services. This is where having a system in place that keeps track of everyone’s responsibilities and how long it takes them to get it done. As a business owner, you need to know the process to provide a service from start to finish each week.

Once you have done that, I want you to look at it differently.

Look at the results, not the time.

How many products or services are sold? What is the result?

If you can produce those same results, ideally even better ones- in under those 40 hours a week, the hours worked each week become irrelevant.  It is about producing the results.

2. Look for areas that can be automated or eliminated.

Once you have your list of what is done and how it takes, this is a great opportunity for you to see if there are any areas that can be automated, or eliminated?

For example:

  • Can you set up email or file templates to save hours per week?
  • Are there areas like social network, collections, or human resources that you can outsource and be more efficient?
  • Do you have any bottleneck areas in the system that can be eliminated and saving time?
  • Are there any steps that are redundant?

Once you clear up and address these types of issues you are going save time for your business and your team.

3. Ask your team for feedback.

This is the most important part of implementing these changes in schedules, their feedback. You need to know if they feel burned out or what would work best for them. Some employees will want more freedom, others time off. While the third are OK with working a 40-hour week but they may just want some extra perks.

Time is valuable and knowing what is important to them will help you see what will help them be most productive and happy.

4. Look at other options.

Short work days may not be for all businesses but that does not mean that you can’t implement a more flexible schedule to a 40-hour week.  Like Reusser Design, you can give your team flexibility to leave early some days a week or set a certain schedule.

Or how about letting your team work remote some days a week and just requiring them to be in office part time? This is a great option for those companies that do need 40-hour work weeks but are looking for ways to provide more flexibility to their team.

5. Train, train, train

Setting these changes in schedules are not without any bumps in the road.  Yet, training your manager to manage the changing schedules and setting ground rules is key.  You must ensure that there is equality in the schedules with your team. This eliminates having that one team member that is stuck covering for everyone else, or the office being unattended.  When you set certain expectations and give your management the proper guidelines they need, it eliminates you having to micromanage everyone’s schedule.

Finally, it can be possible for all businesses. 

As we approach a working society where individuals are looking for flexibility and an environment, they can thrive in.  A better quality of life where both the personal and professional life work in balance is important. One of the biggest turnover reason’s for younger generations when they leave jobs is due to looking for autonomy in their jobs that say goodbye to the rigid 40-hour week.   Giving that to your team in a way that works for your business and them will support them and build a stronger foundation and welcoming environment.