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5 hour workday- brilliant or bogus?

5 hour workday- brilliant or bogus?

October 03, 2016
Can you really offer employees a way to reduce their work hours and maintain a high level of
productivity? I mean really reduce their hours.

What about a 5 hour workday?  

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the interplay between productivity and hours on the job.
Many entrepreneurs are stuck in Owner’s Trap, where they can’t break free from their businesses.
Sunup to sundown, these folks strive for better results by putting in more hours. What about better
productivity with fewer hours?

Stephan Aarstol of Stand Up Paddle Boards has a new book and was featured in a Fast Company article,
but what he really does is run an internet marketing business that sells a Californian beach lifestyle.  
Stephan has created a 5 hour workday and claims to have had great success. Is the 5 hour workday
for real? Is it a truly a replicable model?


I’ve been toying with his theory and I’ve come to my conclusion:

Overall, based on my experience of working with thousand of entrepreneurs, I don’t think it’s replicable
for most businesses. However, there’s wisdom in his approach and some truth to glean.

Let me explain.

Productivity has risen astronomically since Henry Ford popularized the 40 hour work week, instead
of the previous 50+ hours that used to constitute a week’s work. As Parkinson’s law states,“work expands
so as to fill the time available for its completion”. And who hasn’t experienced that himself?

But the goal of any business owner is to create an asset. Whether the 5 hour workday moves you
toward that goal is uncertain.

Learn how to create an asset out of your business.
for a free consultation.

Here's what I like about the 5 hour workday theory.

          #1: It’s a great recruiting tool. Talk up the idea of “employees taking back their 
                 time” and“life is about more than making money.” It strikes a big chord 
                 with millennials, working parents, and employees who want to explore for 
                 profit or not-for-profit projects outside of work. In truth,
                 Americans are the outliers. Half of America is working over 50 hours 
                 a week, while European workers average 36 hours a week.

         #2: Worker retention. How do you retain your most talented and productive 
                 workers? Be in front of the employment curve and offer perks that the new 
                 internet economy can sustain.

          #3: It’s been proven that productivity can rise with fewer hours spent at work.   In the Great 
                Recession of 2009, fewer workers were pulling more weight than previously 
                thought possible. However, there was a plateau and frankly, those 
                overextended workers were none too happy. Your employees have to
                want to condense their work week and see it as an exciting challenge.

          #4: There’s more time for lifestyle activities.  This is especially useful for companies that 
                 promote certain lifestyles and life experiences.  (For example, surfing companies.)

          #5: Employees can learn skills “off the clock”. If employees choose to take a side job, they’ll learn
                 skills  that can be incorporated into their work without you paying them to learn. Stephan’s view 
                 is that the best  employees will being working outside of your office anyway. The condensed workday 
                 gives them time to do so without leaving your company.

           #6: The aura of hiring only the best. A company that must get the same revenue in half of the time 
                  attracts highly motivated, talented employees. No slackers need apply.


Here’s what I don’t like about the 5 hour workday theory:

          #1: The 5 hour workday becomes THE goal of the company, when the true goal of any business 
                  is to  make the business an asset. If you set the 20 hour work week as your goal, it needs to become 
                  the highest priority. At least at first. You must rethink everything from your software programs to  
                  your company’s floor layout to increase productivity.

           #2:Some businesses are better aligned with the shorter workday than others.Your average 
                 Home Depot would be hard pressed to conduct their business in 5 hours a day. An internet based 
                 business can sell at all hours, and only the customer service and shipping department need to come 
                 up with workarounds to service their clients.
                 Stand up surf boards generally sell to a younger crowd. Or the young at heart. These people are
                 savvy with internet purchasing and the item is not critical to own or time sensitive 
                 (no matter what your teenager says).

                 In fact, that clientele may admire the work ethic of 20 hour workweeks and more free time so 
                 much that they’ll actually buy from you just to support the cause!

So now if you want to start a reduced workday program, how do you do it? 

      1.  Create a culture of accountability. It’s more than just punching a time clock. Train your people to 
           focus on delivering a result, not just showing up. Give them clear expectations.
      2.  Start by offering reduced hours on temporary basis. Stephan began the 5 hour workday as 
           a summertime schedule only. The only way you will know is if you try.
      3.  Have clear expectations in place and put your employee feedback on a supercharged, continuous 
           loop. You’ll need to constantly monitor how the experiment is going.
      4.  It’s not for everybody. Not all employees want this level of challenge; they may be best suited to
            9-5 jobs.
      5.  Which leads to...Always be recruiting.

Big tip: Implement a profit sharing program to ensure that everyone has skin in the game.
Let these highly motivated employees share in the company’s successes and failures.


If cutting hours to increase employee satisfaction seems compelling to you,
You’ll receive a complimentary quick start assessment with a business analyst.


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