Last week my step-son took his own life. On the face of it, he had…
Working Fewer Hours Could Make You Happier, More Focused and Productive
Working fewer hours in a week could not only make your people happier, but also more focused and productive.
Imagine you and your team could get more done in fewer hours, by working say 8-10 hours less each week. You wouldn’t need to transform into a superhuman; all you’d need to do is cap your work hours and do your best (as always).
If this was achievable, would you choose to work less and enjoy the more free time? Or would you keep putting as much time into your business as possible, despite the diminishing returns?
A growing number of businesses all over the world have been experimenting with reduced work hours, and many of them found that people started to work more effectively. Very often, people got five days’ work done in 4 days, or 8 hours’ work done in 6 hours.
Interestingly, in some cases, overall productivity improved substantially, by as much as 20-40%, after reducing working hours. Also, staff and client satisfaction increased dramatically, operation costs decreased, and business boomed.
How’s this possible? The logic is simple.
In today’s business, there’s always room for improving productivity and performance.
Research shows that full-time office workers spend only around three days a week, on average, working productively. And interestingly, on warm summer days, productive time shrinks to just two and a half days. So there’s clearly a scope for wasting less time.
But working hard is not enough. In today’s climate, you also need to be switched on and creative to stay in the game. If you’re always busy putting out fires and spinning the hamster wheel, your business is probably highly vulnerable to disruption.
Here are just some of the reasons why working fewer hours can increase productivity:
- You have more time to do other things you love, with friends and family
- You also have more time to look after yourself, for example, to exercise, rest and sleep
- You’re therefore happier, healthier and more relaxed
- You work with more energy, inspiration and enthusiasm
- You’re more present, empathic and kind when you feel well
- Your brain functions better (Studies show that if you’re over 40, working more than 25-30 hours a week likely has a negative impact on your cognitive functioning. Confronting findings, I know, very tempting to dismiss. But would that be a wise response?)
- All these help you to think more creatively and to come up with better ideas and solutions
- You work faster and smarter, and make fewer mistakes
- You know you have a limited time to get things done, so you’re more focused
- You also have a strong incentive to optimise your systems and processes
- You set better priorities and also procrastinate less
- You work with greater momentum, which itself is immensely motivating
All this makes good sense …
But here’s the catch.
Can you picture yourself in this scenario?
You might commit to a new, more balanced work regime. But after a day or two, when it’s ‘officially’ time to shut down your laptop, you decide to press on anyway. After all, completing a few more tasks will only bring you closer to your goals. You might even convince yourself that this whole idea of working less and achieving more does not apply to you because your business is different.
And so you abandon this whole plan before it even gets off the ground. In no time, you’re back working your usual long hours and getting your usual results.
I’m guilty as charged. While I realise that I tend to wear myself out, which doesn’t benefit anyone, switching to shorter hours is not easy.
I wonder if you can relate.
So how can you stop yourself from working too much?
Let me share a few ideas …
Decide where you stand. What’s more valuable to you, long work days and weeks that offer you the opportunity to take things slowly, or shorter and more focused sprints of work that leave you with more free time to enjoy life?
It’s a long-standing debate, even with myself. Do I want clear or blurred boundaries between my work and my personal life? In other words, do I strive for work-life balance or for work-life integration?
When business is going great, I tend to lean towards work-life integration. But whenever I find that I’m flirting with burnout, and my productivity is plummeting, work-life balance becomes a more attractive option.
Once you start to invest in your life outside of work as much as you put into your business, you should find it easier to strike a good balance. When you’re looking forward to evenings, (long) weekends and holidays with people you love, filled with exciting activities, you naturally feel more motivated to get things done at work as effectively as possible.
Do you harbour a sense of guilt around working fewer hours? You could think of those hours and days you spend away from your business as productive time. After all, this is the time when you contemplate, gain perspective, play with outside-the-box ideas, find new sources of inspiration, invest in yourself and recharge.
By working too much, we might be shooting ourselves in the foot.
This is not easy to digest, but burying our heads in the sand won’t help either. Working fewer hours, on the other hand, could positively transform your businesses and your life. I suggest you give it at least a month to see results.
Your optimal work pattern depends on a variety of factors, including your individual work style and the nature of your business. You might have periods in your business when capping work hours is out of the question. But you can be as strict or as flexible as you wish to be – set your own rules.
Many leaders who have already decided to take this leap haven’t looked back. Their teams are thriving. Why wouldn’t you at least try to follow their lead?
“The opinions expressed by Smallville Contributors are their own, not those of www.smallville.com.au"
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