This is Part 2 of a five part series discussing the importance of the work environment. The topic to be discussed is the assumption that a 40 hour work week is necessary. Americans have increased their work hours and decreased their vacation time. Even vacations are invaded by work emails, texts, and phone calls. This creates stress that impacts morale and eventually breaks down the health of the worker. Workers with families are trying to balance work, family needs, and personal time. Working parents report the highest levels of stress, resulting in decreased productivity and increased absenteeism.
There are alternatives to the traditional 40 hour work week that would benefit workers and employers. The 8 hour work day started in Europe during the Industrial Revolution in the late 19th century. The concept of the typical 40 hour week in the office is no longer applicable to our times. Work is no longer concentrated only in an office and can easily extend beyond 40 hours per week. Technology has permanently altered the boundaries of work and home.
The goal of technology was to increase productivity and create a better balance between work and personal time. Regretfully this is not the reality today. Workers have become more competitive utilizing home as an extension of their office space. This has created increased stress which leads to burnout and decreased worker retention. Also this ultimately does negatively impact the customers of the organization.
Organizations are aware of this trend and have taken steps to remedy the situation. It is a benefit to a company to institute policies that will constructively benefit their staff. Ultimately the organization will increase customer satisfaction and the organizations bottom line. Innovators like Google provide childcare in house in order to reduce the stress of travel and pick up time requirements. HubSpot has an unlimited vacation policy. Many organizations now allow flexible work hours and the option to work from home.
For many organizations utilizing flexible work schedules is a scary assault on the traditional 40 hour work week. Managers fear that workers will take advantage of the unsupervised work schedule and that work will not be completed. It is a fear that has not materialized! In the early 1990’s Ernst & Young implemented flexible work options. At that time female workers were terminating 10% to 15% higher than male counterparts. After two decades the new work policy had decreased the female termination to only 2% higher than the males.
Betterment, a New York stock trader and brokerage firm, instituted a NO hour work week.
Even though Betterment is very results oriented, there are no set work hours, on set work location, and has allowed unlimited time off. It has been a very favorable experiment. HubSpot has also experienced positive results from their unlimited vacation policy. The success of these companies is attributed to the support of the organizations CEO. Also it is imperative to hire workers that will embrace and not abuse the new policies.
Now is the time for organizations to reflect on the traditional 8 hour day and 40 hour per week schedule. In order to reduce stress on the managers and the workers, it is advisable to start with small steps to modify the work schedules. Possibly start with the implementation of flexible work schedules and evaluate the impact on morale and retention.