The world is in flux, and it is not surprising that the structure of the traditional workweek is changing too. The 40-hour workweek has shaped the foundation of the professional landscape for ages. Employees and employers have equally benefitted from this working schedule, but it could be time to ditch it. As the nature of work changes, there’s a need for the workforce to ask if the work model still makes sense.
The shift to other alternatives to the 40-hour workweek is evident in giant companies. Cloud computing company Salesforce, for example, is among the many giants that recently announced a shift in work hours. According to the company, the 9-5 schedule is dead.
In another case study, the Tower Paddle Boards founder recognized a disconnect between his company brand and its culture. Although he was selling a product that promoted work-life balance, he was not nurturing the same concept among his employees. Consequently, Stephan Aarstol decided to reduce the daily working hours from eight to five hours.
Why is the 40-Hour Workweek Dying?
Many reasons explain why the workplace is experiencing a shift in the regular working schedule. The rise of remote work is one factor that has provided flexibility now more than ever. Many organizations and employers now understand that there’s no one-size-fits-all work schedule.
The 40-hour workweek also seems to be a threat to productivity. Most employees who conform to the schedule do so out of peer pressure or pressure from management to work harder or stay later. In real life, it’s illogical to try to compartmentalize the natural flow of work. This leads to employee burnout, less individual efficiency, less creative stimulation, and more distractions.
Alternatives to the Traditional Workweek
Fortunately, many employers have realized the inefficiency in the 40-hour workweek and are striking new ground for the traditional schedule. Some companies, especially startups, have adopted new radical approaches, and they seem to be coping just fine. Here are some examples.
1) The 21-Hour Week
According to the New Economics Foundation, the 21-hour week is the new standard for the 21st century. Apart from creating gender equality, the schedule can help countries decarbonize by cutting down on daily commutes. It would also help in the even spread of resources and labor, making workers happier and more productive.
On its downside, this arrangement is more of a part-time approach to working. Employees must also be able to take a pay cut. However, they’ll have more work-life balance and will ultimately be happier.
2) Four-Day Three-Day or Compressed Workweek
Instead of working eight hours, five days a week, companies are implementing a 4 10-hour or 3 12-hour week. The schedule is structured, and employees choose which days of the week they report to the office and take the rest of the time off. The plan is a viable alternative to companies trying to maximize productivity.
3) Flex-Time or Employee Vote
Flex-time is ambiguous in definition, but it revolves around letting employees choose their working hours. They work as they deem fit, which implies working earlier sometimes, later at other times, and longer or shorter hours. For the successful implementation of this schedule, there’s a need for a high trust level in the workers to be responsible. The potential benefits when this happens are limitless.
4) 35-Hour Workweek
Another alternative is to let employees leave for home on Friday at lunch. This means more productivity as it gets them close to a schedule that gives them more time to rest. It’s easier to make a case for a 35-hour workweek than employers might think.
5) The Seven-Day Workweek
For some people, working a few hours every day can solve the problem of the short weekend. When the Covid-19 pandemic came, weekends started feeling exactly like weekdays, only with less work. The lockdown saw them getting up early on Saturday and Sunday to put in a few hours of work before getting into leisure activities. For some, this did wonders for their mental health and helped them relax even more.
This can work for a majority of people post the pandemic times. A majority of Americans check their office email outside office hours, so why not embrace this alternative? For example, 8 a.m. to 1.p.m. daily might be what people need.
6) Working Remotely or Telework
When employees work from home, they’re free from the many distractions they get in the office. They can focus better on the tasks at hand and accomplish a lot more with flexibility and autonomy. The employee works on a pre-set schedule or has a limited time frame to complete their work.
Employers can maximize efficiency by thinking about viable alternatives to the 40-hour workweek. The above are some possible options, but a company’s ultimate path depends on its culture. The decision will also be influenced by how open the employer is to experimentation and trial and error. One thing remains certain: the aspects of the traditional 40-hour workweek are dying, and it is time to embrace change.
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