How many hours a day should you be working? In the US we’re used to eight hours per day culminating in forty hours a week. But some research has shown six hours might be the magic number. Here’s why.
First a reminder: those paid by the hour can only work so much before overtime sets in, but in a salaried position employees often stay until the job is complete. Some 40% of adults work 50 hours or more each week. These extra hours make employees feel overworked and often create preventable mistakes.
Research suggests that the average worker is only productive for less than three hours in a typical workday. The 10 percent most productive workers don’t work a full eight hours, because they take a 15 minute break every 52 minutes. Here are four benefits to placing a six hour workday in your business schedule, plus a handy infographic from our friends at the Ohio University Online masters program.
1. Boost productivity
In the Sweden study, nurses in a retirement home worked six hour days instead of the usual eight. The results were compared against a control group who worked a normal schedule. The six hour day nurses were 64% more productive than their counterparts which created a better quality of care for their patients. This can be translated to the business world because boosted productivity can lead to more work done on time, greater creativity among innovators and a more team friendly environment.
2. Improve worker health
In the study, the nurses with shorter hours took half as much sick time as those in the control group and they were two times less likely to take any time off in a two week period. This also allowed them to have more energy while at work. Employees experience depression when they are overworked, so shorter hours could result in improved mood and greater self-confidence. Healthy workers can lead to better relationships and rapport with clients or vendors, because they are not rescheduling meetings or missing important phone calls.
3. Reduce stress
According to a study by Health Advocate, one million employees miss work each day due to stress. This absenteeism costs employers an estimated $600 per worker each year. Two-thirds of Americans say work is the main source of stress in their life. Lower work hours each day can help reduce the stress of pressured timelines and unclear job expectations. With a few more hours a day to themselves, employees can find a more balanced work and home life. Reduced stress will make happier employees which in turn will create a more positive work environment.
4. More employee engagement
Often employees come to work as a means to an end, but what if those employees were more involved in the mission of the company? Shorter daily work hours could create a better environment for employees to learn about company goals and objectives. Employees who understand a company’s goals are more likely to help the company succeed in reaching them. Workers who learn more about the company’s goals are more likely to stay committed if some of their values are the same. This employee retention can foster better relationships with coworkers and management. Employee engagement can lead to increased knowledge about personal job expectations which can result in greater productivity.
While there are other factors businesses have to consider when thinking about switching to a six hour workday such as costs and hiring more employees, these benefits listed provide a positive start. Not only can companies boost productivity, but have more engaged employees as well as healthy and happier employees. A six hour workday is possible for American companies if they can forget about what has been typical for decades and look forward to the future.
Alyson Iuchs has been in leadership and management positions in multiple industries including hospitality tourism, journalism and sports media. Her passion revolves around reading, writing novels and adventure. Her favorite quote to live by is “The things you’re afraid of are usually the most worthwhile.