Jan 08

Hours and places of work?

Why is it we now work 9 til’ 5 for 5 days a week?

Many years ago, people worked 7 days per week – then this fell to 6 days per week, but 12 hours per day

It took Henry Ford, back in the 30s, to reduce the working week to 40 hours – 5 days at 8 hours per day

Why so?

To improve his workers’ productivity by making them happier – and when his profit margins doubled in a mere two years, many other firms did the same

And it did not take long for white-collar office workers to follow suit although, for a time, some worked half-a-day on Saturday mornings (e.g. bank staff) but this proved such a waste of time for most that it was soon stopped

Nowadays, offices open at 8a.m. or earlier, and stay open until 7p.m. or later – many people believe that being ‘seen’ in the office early or late demonstrates to their boss that they’re working hard, thus helping secure their job

But the thing most wanted from most workers nowadays is quality of results, produced on time i.e. not time inputs – it doesn’t matter when they start or finish work, nor where they do much of it, as long as they produce the results needed

So, if companies are to get the best out of their troops, they should consider introducing flexibility into working hours and places they require of their troops in order to keep them happy and thus productive

Why not a 4 or even 3 day week?

Employees would love this, as long as the hours per day were not excessive

Most brainworkers can’t work long hours over 3 consecutive days – they become fatigued and unable to produce the results – and brawnworkers might well suffer an increase in shop floor accidents because of tiredness

Marketing company Steelhouse introduced a 3 day weekend once a month for every month which did not have such a weekend (caused by bank holidays etc):

  • The company would completely shut down over the period, no work emails even allowed

  • This meant an extra 40 hours a year was lost per worker

  • So, with 250 workers, a total of 10,000 hours input was lost

  • The result was “a tremendous improvement in employee morale and productivity – it brought teams together and all felt more refreshed”

  • So the initiative is to be repeated

So the concept is attractive, but not if it involves 35-40 hours input being squeezed into the shorter period

Why not a shorter working day e.g. 6 hours?

Some companies already have moved to this, believing their employees would become happier and healthier, and thus more productive, not less

This is especially true for creative companies where brains need regular breaks and refreshment if they are to be creative – a good reason why employees should not be ticked off for using social media at work

Some say 4 continuous hours a day of hard thinking is a maximum for most brainworkers – and a high proportion of such work can be done anytime, anywhere, especially given the internet connectivity now available

So, to recruit and retain the best people, many brainwork firms must recognise that rigid time rules from yesteryear will not work nowadays

Why not flexible hours?

For some, this allows workers to start work at non-conventional times – say 8 to 4 or 10 to 6 rather than 9 to 5 – or work a mix of short and long days – such flexibility helps workers tailor their work time to their domestic situation plus avoid rush-hour congestion

For others, it means shorter working weeks, even working on ‘zero hour contracts’ where firms call them in as and when needed – such contracts suit many people who only want part-time employment – sadly, many others choose them because they have no alternative

The upsides here for both employers and employees far outweigh any downsides so it’s surprising that so many still do not offer flexible hours

Why not remote working?

A Northern Ireland finance firm, AKFP Group, closed its HQ for a full month on a ‘remote working initiative’

They found it boosted both staff morale and productivity

Staff were allowed to work from locations of their choice – the result was ‘they reaped the benefits of being able to change venues, eradicate long commutes into the office and, above all, increase the happiness of employees’

Potential setbacks to workflow were minimised due to a cloud-based project management system that aided the effectiveness of remote working as staffers were able to access everything required from the cloud to service clients as normal

Calls into the office were shared or diverted to an allocated mobile and clients were made aware so that face-to-face appointments were scheduled the month prior as part of the planning phase

Group director Roger Kennedy said: “All our clients and the whole team were really supportive of the initiative – all client queries were dealt with efficiently and in line with our service levels – working remotely enabled my team to spend more time with their loved ones and get out on a summer’s day, providing they had completed their task list”

A staff member said: “There is a high level of trust in the office and it’s a great feeling to be given the flexibility to do this – we did have to visit the office occasionally to review post, but that wasn’t a problem”

The firm is planning to roll out the one-month initiative again next year

Commuting time:

The UK’s ONS (Office for National Statistics) claims the average commute time = 57 minutes

This means that the time the average worker spends on various activities each week is as follows:

  • 6% = Commuting = 2 hours per day = 10 hours per week

  • 21% = At work = 35 hours

  • 40% = Socialising/ home = 67 hours

  • 33% = Asleep = 7 x 8 hours = 56 hours


Given most commuting time is a waste of time, it clearly makes good sense for many organisations to employ remote working, even if only on a partial basis



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