Categorized | Management

5 Ways to Make a Shorter Work Week Work

Sounds like a dream doesn’t it?  Every weekend a three day weekend.  No hump day.  Two Saturday nights!  It actually turns out that the dream of a shorter work week isn’t such a dream so much as a debate we are having with ourselves.

Experts tell us that the average worker would have to work a mere 10 hours a week to meet the productivity of their 1950’s counterpart.  The bad news is that the economy has calibrated itself for that productivity.  We expect things done faster than we used to.  Receiving a package in 3 days used to be fast.  Then overnight.  Now if we can’t download this instant we’re not interested.

A good example of this comes from a CNN blogger who tried to fit a shorter workweek in with the 24/7 new cycle business:

http://www.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/08/14/cnn.workweek/index.html

The second big problem with shorter work weeks is the slow economy.  Many people view flex time as a major liability to their career assuming bosses have an “out of sight / out of mind” view of their performance.  Need to make cuts?  Who’s that guy I never see?  http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/worklife/03/29/flex.time/index.html?iref=allsearch

But a shorter work week can have some major benefits.  First, it can save on energy cost in terms of running office amenities as well as in commuting costs for employees.  There’s also a case to be made for frankly acknowledging the waste that often takes place in juggling work and life. A doctor’s visit, for example, may only take an hour but can easily eat up an entire afternoon of an employee’s time.  If these sort of activities were concentrated in extra time off, actual word days would become less diluted.

So from a management perspective, how do you implement a shorter work week to ensure these  efficiencies are working for you?  How do you turn a nice perk into a way to reduce overhead and improve effectiveness.  Here are 5 ways to start:

1.)  Make it Mandatory

Efficiency means that employees can’t be in the office.  Keeping strict working hours ensures that employees genuinely approach work more efficiently, but also means that no one will feel threatened by missing something important.  Any kind of flex time needs to be more or less mandatory.  If it’s not, natural competition will kick in resulting in greater inefficiency.

2.)  Manage by Task

Task oriented management means looking at what and employee delivers and when they deliver it instead of whether they’re simply available to work. Shorter hours mean less time to get something done, but also means you are judged on production instead of time.

3.)  Keep Meetings Short and to the Point

Less time in the office means less time for meetings.  It’s still important to touch base with people, but keep meetings short.

4.)  Beware of Too Much Email

An office that isn’t frequently together tends to email often.  The problem is the vast number of emails that crowd computers every day.   Keeping people in the loop doesn’t always mean hitting cc, however.  Encourage that problems and questions be addressed in meetings, phone calls, or in one to one exchanges.

5.)  Use Technology

There are terrific tools like Skype and an array of chatting programs that are great ways to stay in touch outside the office.  Also, document sharing has become easier with services like Google docs.  You may need to push along these relationships slightly with training or hardware, but they are fairly maintenance free after that.

Flexible working schedules and shorter hours simply means worker smart and not harder.  Managing this process also means rewarding smart work and enabling it.  The results could be higher productivity and a lower bottom line.

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Tim McPherson

By Tim McPherson

Tim McPherson, President and COO for Nesco Resource, has over 27 years of experience in all facets of the Staffing Services Industry.

One Response to “5 Ways to Make a Shorter Work Week Work”

  1. Susan says:

    I feel that this philosophy is a by-product of the me-generation that still does not understand teamwork and only focuses on an individual’s goals instead of the company’s strategies and objectives. This is a philosphy that cannot be consistently and globally applied across an organization, which in turn does not make it feasible. I see many individuals in my organization manage to a 4-day work week. Many claim to be “working at home” on the 5th day, but it is obvious they are not. The resulting impact is that others have to work longer hours to compensate, and the team concept is thrown out the window. I believe this work habit evolved out of the increased use of remote contractors who needed to travel on weekdays. As a working mother, and based on the schedules of my childrent, it is not always practical to work 10 hrs for 4 days versus 5 days. In reality, the 4-day a week worker tends to be selfish and focused only on individual priorities and what can be accomplished by a few instead of what needs to be accomplished by many. They hijack the time of others in order to accomplish their tasks in 4-days and then are unavailable to otherw when needed. What they leave in their wake is that in order to accomplish these short term goals for a few individuals, many others have to work odd hours (late days, longer weeks and week-ends) in order to catch up from the flurry of activity and accomplish the more strategic goals of the organization. There is so much information to share on this subject, but I wanted to keep this comment brief. Overall, the 4-day per week worker is only 1 element of a team and this type of focus might work for the individual but is actually counter-productive to the company’s overall productivity requirements.

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