Ever wonder why the standard workday is 8 hours? Why not 10, or 12? Before labor was regulated, workdays could last anywhere from 10 to 16 hours for 6 days a week. What’s worse is children were part of the workforce!
Thankfully, the 8-hour day movement, who declared, “8 hours labour, 8 hours recreation, 8 hours rest” was eventually successful. But now that we’ve moved from a predominantly industrial society to a service-based one, why hasn’t anyone questioned the 8-hour workday? Why are we so willing to tacitly accept it? Does it still make sense for certain types of professional work?
I would suggest that the standard 8-hour workday be replaced. That a focused 5-hour workday could produce the same, if not better, results. Here’s how it works…
The “Focused 5″ concept allows team members to:
Select a Start Time
Unlike the standard 8-hour workday, that typically begins at 9am and ends at 5pm, the focused 5-hour day allows the team member to determine when they start work. If they have an important family gathering, doctor’s appointment, or other significant event, they can tailor their day to accommodate. Even if they don’t have plans, they can still look forward to having time to relax.
Determine the Length of Their Day
This is where the “Easy-Going 8″ concept comes in. Everyone has a morning work ritual. Some come in, grab a cup of coffee, watch a funny video on YouTube, talk to a friend in another department, whatever. Regardless of what it is, it is not productive. Depending on how chatty those in the company are that day, hours of productivity can be lost by simply spreading the latest gossip.
All of this time spent with interruptions and lackadaisical behavior add up. I would say they add up to about 3 hours a day. This creates the “Easy-Going 8″. In other words, instead of focusing on their job, team members take a more relaxed stance towards work and allow themselves to get caught up in unproductive activities.
If given the choice of a 5-hour workday, I believe that team members would have more incentive to focus on their work and less on other activities. This is up to the individual team member. If they wish to indulge in something else, they can, but they also understand that this will lengthen their overall workday.
The Problems It Solves
By embracing the “Focused 5″ concept, you help prevent:
As mentioned above, there are a lot of opportunities to get off track during the course of a workday. There always seems to be at least one person that distracts everyone else. This changes on a day to day basis and sometimes there is more than one person to worry about. By offering everyone the “Focused 5″ incentive will result in less hallway meandering and water cooler conversation.
Some mornings a team member just can’t get with it. They might have been out late the night before, had trouble sleeping, or simply just not motivated. The reverse can also be true. Some days they may wake up early and ready to get a jumpstart on the day. But, because they know that they’re still responsible to stay until the usual time, they don’t bother.
By having the ability to choose the time they start a team member can do what is necessary to be as productive as possible.
We all do it. We have a question, want to share an idea, or something else comes up in our workday that sends us into a co-worker’s office to interrupt them. Unless the building is on fire, there usually isn’t ever a good reason for this. There are very few things in life that need an immediate answer.
By enforcing “focus time”, other team members are forced to respect their co-worker’s space and schedule an appropriate time to meet about a given idea or issue. This added lead time not only stops unnecessary interruptions, but gives both parties the time to prepare and make the meeting as productive as possible.
Ingredients for Success
Sure, this all sounds great, but in order for the “Focused 5″ to work, you need to:
This is the keystone of the “Focused 5″ concept. If you don’t truly focus for 5 hours to accomplish your goals for the day, the entire system falls apart. That means 5 hours of real work. Not 4 hours of work with an hour lunch. It can’t be stressed enough; each team member must produce 5 hours of actual work. I think you’d be amazed at how much can be accomplished using this discipline.
Trust Your Team
As a business owner or department head, you must implicitly trust your team. Otherwise, you’ll always be second guessing their intentions and wonder if they are really giving 100%. If you find yourself worrying about someone’s motives, it may be time to move that team member on.
Be Held Accountable
Where there are no consequences, there is no compliance. Just as they say in Spider-Man, “With great power comes great responsibility.” The same holds true for the “Focused 5″. By being given the freedom that all human beings want at their jobs, they must in turn be held accountable for their performance. The “Focused 5″ isn’t about slacking off; it’s about removing the excesses of the “Easy-Going 8″ and allowing for more productivity and recreation.
Though seemingly unorthodox, I believe the “Focused 5″ can improve a company’s productivity and morale. It gives team members the free-will to customize their day the same way an entrepreneur would. This independence will turn good team members into better ones and give them the ability to create something great.
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