The typical 8 hour business or work day stretches from approximately 8-8:30 or 9am to somewhere between 5 and 6pm. This work day schedule was established around the time of the Industrial Revolution by the unions as an effort to prevent exploitation. Work days previously were between 11 and 16 hours, and for 6 days a week. The change in work schedules to the approximately “9-5” five day a week schedule was ideal at the time. Still, the Industrial Revolution occurred during the 1800s, over two centuries ago. Why are we still using the same working day template?
Surely, our work practices are in need of an overhaul? During the industrial revolution, work was primarily physical. When it comes to manual labour, worker effectiveness doesn’t tend to vary significantly throughout the day provided each worker has sufficient breaks.
In the era of the computer, the 8 hour shifts of the Industrial Revolution have remained despite not being practical. As technology adapts and changes ever more greatly, changing the way we are able to work and communicate, the 8 hour work days may become increasingly less practical.
3 ways to get rid of those lazy afternoons and increase effectiveness & productivity in the workplace:
1) Switch it Up: Less time spent consecutively in front of a computer equals greater productivity. This has been proven. According to several studies, currently only 3 or 4 hours out of 8 in a typical work day are actually highly productive hours. That’s half the day when our productivity is reduced and we become lethargic due to the draining effect of computer screens. Also, unlike the manual workers of the Industrial Revolution, we spend 8 hours a day trying to pump information into and out of our brains. This just isn’t practical. Working at a computer in intervals (rather than all day) actually allows for better creativity and brain power by reducing computer fatigue. Allow workers to do tasks away from their desk or computer or provide opportunities for different types of work. This will increase productivity, reduce fatigue, and create greater work fulfilment.
2) Work from Home: it’s truly a wonder why more people are not taking advantage of the technologies available and allowing work from home. Remote workers are often more productive. And with technology as it is now, iPhones, face time, video conferencing, tablets, and more, it’s hard to see the reasons why not to allow remote work. Face to face meetings and contact is important for partnerships and work relationships to remain intact. We all want to feel apart of the team – but for much of the time, working from home may be ideal and beneficial to both the employer and employee. Who says working at the office is necessary? These days it isn’t.
3) Be Flexible: If work from home isn’t ideal, alternative shift patterns for those who work on a computer is the way of the future. Many countries are already doing this and it’s working incredibly well. Enabling employees to work out their shifts how they like so long as the work gets done is revolutionary and incredibly effective. Let those who work best at night work at night. Those who rise early can come in at dawn. Some people work best in shorter spurts with lots of breaks, let them come and go as the day goes on. Alternatively, some companies in Europe also have shorter weeks with longer days allowing for longer weekends. This is also effective as more rest equals greater productivity too.
There are many potential alternatives to the traditional work schedule. Choosing what’s best for a specific line of work and business is key to success. Accountability also ensures employees don’t take advantage.
We have much to thank the union reps of the 1800s for, but we are not in the Industrial Revolution any longer. We’re in the 21st Century. It’s time for a new work day model.
Do you agree that having an effective work day is key to being successful?
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