Our fixation on the eight-hour workday is probably making us unhappier and less productive.
Positive relationships in the workplace are essential to a successful business. Businesses that encourage healthy relationships improve teamwork and employee morale, increase productivity and enjoy higher retention rates. Simply put, it’s a win-win for both employees and companies when people enjoy being at work.
If you’re a business leader looking for effective and innovative ways to strengthen the relationships among your team members, consider a survey released in 2016 that followed nurses working six-hour shifts at the Svartedalens retirement center in Sweden. After comparing the 68 nurses at Svartedalens with a control group, researchers found they were sick less often and took less time off. That study inspired many businesses in Sweden to adopt a six-hour workday.
“If the nurses are at work more time and are more healthy, this means that the continuity at the residence has increased,” said Bengt Lorentzon, a researcher on the project. “That means higher quality [care].” It also showed that the nurses were 20 percent happier and more energetic both during both working hours and “off” hours. As a result, they did 64 percent more activities with elderly residents compared with the control group.
The six-hour workday is an idea that has been floating around Europe since 1989, but has just never taken off. However, another survey from 2016 found that six out of 10 bosses believed that reducing workdays to six hours would be beneficial for business. How, exactly, can a shortened workday foster better relationships?
1. Working fewer hours reduces stress.
As noted by the American Institute of Stress, “Numerous studies show that job stress is far and away the major source of stress for American adults and that it has escalated progressively over the past few decades.” A whopping 80 percent of workers feel stress on the job, with almost half claiming they need help in learning how to manage stress.
The good news is that spending less time at work can alleviate stress. Instead of spending 10 more hours per week worrying about deadlines, unclear expectations and emails, you have more time to yourself. This means you can achieve a healthy work-life balance and develop a clearer perspective about solving problems and approaching situations at work. Researchers in Norway have found that when there’s less stress at work, relationships are positive and stronger.
2. Excessive socialization decreases performance.
While there are benefits to socializing at work — studies have found it increases productivity — there’s also drawbacks. A study of 180 teams at a national travel agency discovered that too much socialization causes individual team members gradually slip into groupthink that inhibits the development of new ideas and strategies.
Considering that most Americans spend more time at work than they do with their own families, it’s easy to see how a team can develop a hive-like mindset. Besides, no matter how well you get along with someone else, spending almost 50 hours a week together for decades can take a toll on a relationship.
With a six-hour workday, you’ll only be spending 30 hours per week with your colleagues instead of between 40 and 50. That not only prevents team members from getting tired of each other, but it also ensures they maintain their own independent thoughts and ideas.
3. Scheduled downtime boosts productivity and morale.
Regardless of whether you expect your team members to live and breathe your brand 24/7 or have a more relaxed workplace atmosphere, everyone needs time away from work. Time away can increase productivity because it prevents burnout, boosts creativity and increases productivity.
Furthermore, research has found that predictable and mandatory time off not only improves productivity, but it also enhances morale. Again, when individual team members are more productive and satisfied, it radiates positivity across the entire workplace; a six-hour workday could be a simple and effective solution in getting people away from work more often.
4. Healthier employees are absent much less often.
A teammember staying home sick is less of a problem than an overly-devoted teammember coming to work contagious, but what’s best is a healthy team that doesn’t miss work often. The staff at Svartedalens took half as much sick time as those in the control group. Additionally, they were 2.8 times less likely to take time off during a two-week period.
By spending less time at work but more productively, employees are less stressed, don’t feel they are overworked and generally are happier. They have sufficient time to partake in healthy activities, like exercising. As a result, their immune systems are much stronger — which means colleagues don’t have to worry about catching a nasty bug from a co-worker.
5. There is a lot less slacking off and fewer errors.
We’ve all worked with someone who lagged behind. Maybe he was lazy, or maybe just not in the right position. There’s also the possibility that he was just overworked and exhausted.
Various studies have found that when we’re overworked we call out more often and we’re less productive and more prone to mistakes when we do work. When we’re often absent and making mistakes a colleague has to pick up the slack.
Instead of working together toward a common goal, team members eventually resent colleagues they perceive as slackers who create work for others. Working fewer hours gives employees the opportunity to recharge their batteries so they remain at peak performance, boosting their own productivity and their teammates’ morale.
6. A pro-employee environment gets everyone invested.
Finally, when employees work fewer hours they are inclined to learn more about their company’s goals and objectives. Why? Because of the positive environment they’re in, they’re more engaged and willingly to support a company that genuinely cares about their well-being.
Employees who feel taken care of — and who feel their needs have been heard or anticipated by their employer — will be committed to buying into the company’s mission and vision. As a result, teams are united in accomplishing the same goals and objectives.
A six-hour workday may sound like a pipe dream, but it could also be the best thing you do for your team. The benefits of giving teammates 10 hours back every week — both for you and your employees — may actually result in a bigger payoff than your current eight-hour workday does.