Does a 5-hour workday actually make sense?
Monday, June 06, 2016
American entrepreneur and philosopher Jim Rohn once said, “Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time."
Now, another American entrepreneur is taking that approach to heart.
Stephen Aarstol, the CEO and founder of Tower Paddle Boards, is probably best known for a few awkward moments on television in which he froze up during his presentation on "Shark Tank" back in 2012. Despite the slip-up, he received the support and funding of billionaire Mark Cuban.
His awkward moment — something that could have happened to any of us — may have endeared him to fans of the show, and Tower's business has taken off since then to become a true success story for the show.
Last summer, Aarstol decided to try a bold experiment with his company. He wanted to give time back to his employees by condensing the eight-hour workday down to five.
On June 1, 2015, Tower Paddle Boards implemented new summer hours for its seven employees — in the office at 8 a.m., out the door at 1 p.m. One year later, the summer experiment is now the permanent business model, the company is growing, and the employees — now up to 10 — couldn't be happier.
"When you tell people they're working 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. now and they have 1 p.m. on free, it's sort of life-changing," said Aarstol, who details the efforts in a new book coming out in July, "The Five-Hour Workday: Live Differently, Unlock Productivity, and Find Happiness."
"It's not just an incremental amount of time after work, you're making every day like a vacation. You literally have 9 or 10 hours every day. Work is just kind of something you do in the morning."
Aarstol is aiming to rock the business world with this new model. He likes to compare the change to when Henry Ford cut the workday down from 10-12 hours to eight-hour shifts in 1914. Ford was able to accomplish the new schedule because of his efficient assembly line.
Yet with all of the technological efficiency we've gained in a century since then, most of us still work eight hours each day. Aarstol thinks it's simply a waste in many industries — particularly office work.
"If you go into most offices, people are getting 2-3 hours of work done, and they're spending 9.4 hours on average in the office," he said. "They're doing online shopping. They're doing Facebook. They're letting email manage them instead of batching it. There are just all of these inefficiencies because we've thrown people and man-hours at them."
According to Aarstol, the biggest cause of waste is a lack of incentive to work more efficiently. If you work twice as hard as your neighbor, you don't get twice as much pay. Sure, you may set yourself up for a promotion, but that may be months or even years down the line. It's tough to focus on the long game each and every day at work.
So he came up with a more valuable incentive: give workers their time back. Instead of playing around on the internet trying to fill out the eight-hour day, Tower employees get to leave early when they complete their work.
Employee salaries and benefits remained the same, but so did the amount of work expected from each employee. Now, it's up to each worker to cut the fat out of their work day — come up with creative ways to find productivity tools and compress their work into five hours.
Tower Paddle Boards employees pose with "Shark Tank" billionaire Mark Cuban.
But not everyone is convinced the five-hour work day will be successful over the long haul.
"Any change in work structure will have a significant impact in the short term, but as people get used to the new format, they will typically fall into their usual tendencies," says Leo Welder, the CEO and founder of ChooseWhat.com, a startup guide for entrepreneurs.
"People who tend to waste a high percentage of their time at work may at first be more focused given a five-hour day, however, over time, they will likely begin to waste a similar percentage of their new five-hour day."
And there have been a few stumbling blocks on the way for Tower. For starters, the new environment hasn't worked for everyone over the last year — several employees have either left or were let go. But it's been a learning process for everyone, including Aarstol.
He's even had to step back at times and trust the system he created.
"It does sort of rub you the wrong way when somebody just walks out right at 1," he admitted. "I'm kind of like, 'Is that person really working?' I sort of struggle with that more than I think they do. But productivity is definitely happening, and things are going great."
Five-hour work days may be easy for a small company of 7-10 employees to implement, but what about larger ones of 50, 500 or 5,000 employees? Aarstol believes the model is scalable and that any company can benefit, but Welder remains skeptical.
"This seems like a good recruiting tool for a new business hiring their first employees," Welder said. "However, it seems much riskier for an existing business to try to implement with their current workforce."
Aarstol is urging companies to give the five-hour workday a try, and summer is the perfect time to go for it. Even if it's only temporary, employees will learn new ways to be productive and efficient, which can only benefit the company. And the employees will be grateful toward the company that gave them their time back.
"People are on this hamster wheel of consumerism and working longer and longer hours," Aarstol said. "Something like 70 to 80 percent of people are not satisfied with their jobs. They don't want to be there. That's horrific when you look at it.
"Our work should be designed for how we want to live, but it's not. It hasn't been for a long time."
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