It’s counterintuitive to think that if your staff puts in fewer hours, the company will become more profitable. Nonetheless, that seems to be the findings from a study in Denmark that was reported by Bloomberg. What can shorter hours mean to your company?
Benefits of shorter work hours
In simple terms, the study found that those who worked a six-hour work day, as compared to an eight-hour day, were healthier. This translated into fewer sick days and fewer days off for other reasons.
The study’s subjects also reported being more energetic and feeling less stressed. While not clear, this may have translated into greater productivity.
One U.S. company actually put the concept of a shorter workday into effect, and the results were laudable. The owner of a 10-person company changed everyone’s hours to 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. This effectively raised the hourly rate of each employee with no additional financial outlay. But it also resulted in revenue growth of 40% in one year, and the growth trend is continuing.
With summer fast approaching, you may want to consider setting summer hours. A number of firms (I say this anecdotally because I couldn’t find statistics) reduce their workdays during the extended summer months — from Memorial Day through Labor Day. For example, they may close at noon or 1 p.m. on Friday to give everyone a somewhat longer weekend. If you consider adopting summer hours, it would be interesting to track your revenue this year as compared with last year when you didn’t have shorter hours (of course, increased revenue could be the result of a better economy and not attributable to shorter work hours).
The Society for Human Resource Management has posted a Summer Flextime Policy that you can review and, if desired, adapt for your company.
Other workweek arrangements
Some jobs have historically used 12-hour shifts and fewer days each week for staffing, such as doctors and nurses at hospitals. Firefighters may work a 48/96 shift schedule; they work 48 hours followed by 96 hours off. Some companies have adopted a 4-day work week; employees work 10 hours on those days (as compared to 8 hours, 5 days a week).
While total hours each week are no more than the usual 9-to-5 office schedule, these nontraditional work schedules may cause health problems. Sleep deprivation can lead to physical (e.g., increased risk of hypertension, heart attack, and stroke) and cognitive problems (e.g., forgetfulness, impaired problem-solving skills).
Long hours for owners
Even if it’s possible to arrange shorter hours or better workweeks for employees, many small business owners find it impossible to limit their hours at work. Many routinely put in 50, 60, or 70 hours each week. How can someone working such punishing hours remain healthy and productive? The Miami Herald’s CEO Roundtable learned these tips from various CEOs:
- Regular exercise
- Uninterrupted personal time with family
- Healthy diet
- Extended time off (e.g., vacations)
As a business owner who puts in long hours, it’s been my practice to take off one day each week (no email or other business-related activities). This arrangement has worked for me. I’d be interested to learn how other business owners cope. Send me an email at barbara at barbaraweltman dot com. Thanks.