Employers have begun to abandon the standardized 40-hour workweek. A recent survey of 1,200 working Americans illustrated the changing face of work in the country. The survey revealed that 18 percent worked 60 hours or more, 21 percent worked between 50 and 59 hours, and 11 percent worked somewhere between 41 and 49 hours per week.
The era of a standardized workweek is clearly on the way out. Many workers no longer punch in the same timesheets. Employers are beginning to appreciate the need for managing time better. The desire to enforce fairness through a standard workday is giving way to new notions of why a standard workday is counterproductive.
Full-Time Gets in the Way of Productivity
Requiring every employee to work the same schedule regardless of the workflow harms individual and business productivity levels. It also has a number of associated downsides.
One of the downsides of standardized full-time work is mental and physical burnout. The tedium of routine brings about mental exhaustion caused by the invisible cage of routine. Physical fatigue and reduced productivity has resulted from employees and employers treated the standard as a minimum to be exceeded.
Another downside of the 40-hour week is how it ignores the reality that different people are more efficient during different times of the day. Enforcing a strict routine reduces such workers’ efficiency potential.
Routine also stifles creative stimulation. A strict schedule requires creative thinking to be turned on within a specified time frame, which is an unnatural requirement. Creativity does not work according to a schedule.
Keeping workers together encourages distractions instead of collaboration. Distractions can take the form of unnecessary meetings, wasteful conversations, and people getting called away from their tasks.
A fixed schedule also ignores the ebb and flow of business activities with alternating busy and slow periods. A 40-hour schedule leaves lots of downtime during slow periods. A better alternative would accommodate these fluctuations with tools to manage time more efficiently.
Emerging Alternatives to the Standard Workweek
Some companies have begun offering new alternatives to the traditional workweek. Among them, startups have tested radically different approaches. So far, there is little to indicate which new method is more efficient or productive, but these new alternatives are becoming popular:
- Four Day and Three Day Week—Some companies are experimenting with four 10-hour and three 12-hour workweeks to maximize productivity.
- Flex-Time—Flex-time allows employees to schedule their own work hours.
- Work from Home— Office distractions do not get in the way, while workers can focus on tasks with greater flexibility and autonomy when working from home.
- Employee Votes—Some businesses are allowing workers to decide their hours on a rotating basis. This allows employers to test options.
These new alternatives are evidence that the conventional workweek is no longer sacrosanct. Companies can also experiment with other potential alternatives. Change must come to boost productivity and increase worker satisfaction.