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Is A 40 Hour Workweek Really Necessary?

By Jacob Shriar | Small Business

Nope.

In fact, we’re more productive when we take the proper time to rest and recover. I’ll go into more detail on this later.

It’s now actually quite common for people to work more than 40 hours in a week, but research shows over and over again that you’re doing more damage.

Not only is it not healthy, but you’re increasing your chances of burning out.

I’ve spoken a lot about working smarter, not harder, and I think that far too many people do “busy work” just to keep themselves occupied or look good to their manager.

The fact of the matter is, managers are measuring the wrong thing. It doesn’t matter how much time you spend at work , or how much time you spend on a given task, what matters is what you got done.

Workaholics aren’t heroes. They don’t save the day, they just use it up. The real hero is home because she figured out a faster way” – Jason Fried

The Origins Of The 40 Hour Workweek

Actually, the 40 hour workweek has only been in law since 1938, with the Fair Labour Standards Act, but before then, it wasn’t uncommon for workers to work 14 hour days, six days a week.

During the industrial revolution, workers worked long hours until one man, named Robert Owen started a campaign to get people to work only 8 hours.

His slogan was “Eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest.”

What I find interesting is that if you look way back in history, at Benjamin Franklin’s typical daily schedule, you’ll notice that he actually had a similar type of idea.

Is A 40 Hour Workweek Really Necessary? image 40 hr weeekIs A 40 Hour Workweek Really Necessary?

He actually has a pretty good schedule going, and what’s really cool about the way he works is he takes a lot of time for reflexion, and has a two hour break in the middle of the day to avoid burnout.

It took a while for people to realize that working less time could lead to higher productivity.

Probably the first successful case study was the Ford motor company, who voluntarily implemented 40 hour workweeks, and doubled the pay of their workers.

This actually increased productivity, increased loyalty, and employees had a greater sense of pride.

Working In Sprints

I talk a lot about working smarter, not harder, and the best way to do that is to manage your energy, not your time.

There are 2 concepts I’ll talk about, but they both involve working for short periods of time, taking a break to recharge, and th

en getting back to work.

They also both emphasize the importance of blocking out all distractions, and working on only one thing at a time.

The first concept is called Ultradian Rhythm, which is a concept of how our energy levels work created by a sleep researcher named Nathan Kleitman.

What he found was when we sleep, our bodies go through a cycle of light sleep, to deep sleep, and then back, which usually lasts 90 minutes.

What he also found, was that our bodies when they’re awake go through a similar cycle.

This concept has now been popularized by Tony Schwartz, an expert on managing your energy and being productive.

The second concept, and I’ve spoken many times about this one, is the Pomodoro technique. The way this one works is you work for 25 minutes on a single task, and then take a 5 minute break.

This is similar to the one above, but a little more fast-paced, and agile.

What’s important for me to note is that we need to listen to our bodies. If you’re feeling tired, take a rest, don’t drink coffee to mask what you’re really going through.

When you rest, and give your body the downtime it needs, you come back more refreshed and ready to go.

The Importance Of Downtime

It might seem counterintuitive at first for me to say that not working is the secret to being more productive, but there is a ton of evidence that shows that people who are well rested perform better.

In a University of Illinois study, researchers found that simply having them take two brief breaks from their main task allowed them to stay focused during the entire experiment.

Here are some tips to boost productivity

A recent Harvard study estimated that sleep deprivation costs American companies $63.2 billion a year in lost productivity.

Researchers at Stanford found that when they got male basketball players to sleep 10 hours a night, their performances in practice dramatically improved: free-throw and three-point shooting each increased by an average of 9%.

Companies like Treehouse are even becoming famous for their 4 day workweek, and there are lots of companies implementing “napping” into their offices to encourage employees to rest.

During your downtime, you should stretch your muscles, it’s been proven to increase your productivity when you return to the task at hand.

Hopefully, your company culture promotes daily team building activities at work that recognize the importance of downtime.

Results Only Work Environment

I’d like to introduce those that might not be familiar, to a concept called a results only work environment (ROWE).

The concept behind it is essentially what the name says, and what matters only is results.

Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, too many managers are measuring the wrong thing.

They seem to think that if an employee is not at their desk typing, then they must not be working. This is a very silly way of thinking, and doesn’t reflect the way humans work. Like I mentioned earlier, we have energy cycles, so we literally can’t be typing all day.

What’s important to understand about ROWE is that it’s a complete change in the way you think.

It’s not about working from home, or giving employees flexibility, it’s about looking only at results, that’s it.

It’s somewhat revolutionary, but the thinking is, employees can do whatever they want, whenever they want, as long as the work gets done.

On a deeper level, it’s about treating your employees with respect, and understanding that they have lives outside of work.

In fact, you should be encouraging them to spend more time with their family, and enjoying life outside of work, because it will make them happier overall, which will lead to better performance at work.

When you treat your employees with respect, they will be more engaged and will be excited to work at the company.

“ROWE is the only way to survive the extreme pressures of Corporate America today. Burn-out would otherwise be just around the corner for many of us. With cutbacks and growing expectations, we need the flexibility of accomplishing our work when and how we need to.” – An Employee at Best Buy

Actually, Best Buy famously discontinued the use of ROWE in their organization, and obviously that sent the internet into a frenzy about how it doesn’t work.

I think the problem is much deeper than that, and there are a few important points to remember.

  1. Everyone needs to be on board – at Best Buy, only 2-3% of the workforce worked this way, while the way their store employees worked never changed.
  2. For ROWE to work, and any type of autonomy, there needs to be clear goals, so that people actually know what they need to do.
  3. They were really struggling financially, for other reasons, and decided that a big change was needed. There was no evidence that the ROWE was related to their poor performance.

Luckily, the creators of ROWE wrote a great blog post explaining all of this, and there’s a great article in Forbes that also explains this.

Do You Work More Than 40 Hours A Week?

If So, How Come? Is It Part Of Your Company Culture?

This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: Is A 40 Hour Workweek Really Necessary?

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