The Case for a 5-hour Workday

Eight-hour workdays were established in 19-century socialism where there were no limitations on demands employers could make. The unions in America fought hard for a 40-hour week, which became part of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. At that time, it was a vast improvement for factory workers. The same system that was established years ago continues to dictate the business hours and the lifestyle of workers today — the demand for productivity increases in correlation with multitasking, pressure, and anxiety. A work-life balance seems almost unattainable as more people face fatigue, and the number of dissatisfied Americans in the workplace reaches a high 52.3%.

Our brains and bodies were not designed for a 40-hour week schedule. The author of Your Brain at Work, and the co-founder of NeuroLeadership Institute, David Rock, explains that we only focus for 6-hours per week. His studies convey that 90% of people are better thinkers outside of the office, and the majority focus better at certain times of the day (in the morning or late at night). A ten-year study conducted by McKinsey explains that top executives are 500% more productive when their thought process flows, and another study from Advanced Brain Monitoring revealed that the time of productivity was significantly decreased by half when individuals were in the flow state of mind. New York Times bestselling author, Adam Grant, informs us that employers of more complex and creative jobs should not focus on how many hours their employees are working. It is not the number of hours, but the quality of work your employees are providing.

A professor at the University of California, Gloria Mark, studied how our brains will automatically break our focus. It takes 25 minutes to return to the original task and 5 minutes to regain focus. There are numerous interruptions and distractions in the workplace, and our mind will interrupt us 44% of the time. Our brain will only focus on any given task for two hours. After two hours, our mind needs a 20 to 30-minute break to recharge.

What if your workplace implemented a 5-hour weekday schedule? What if interviewers asked, “When do you work more effectively, in the mornings or the afternoons?” What if companies paid employees full salary for working 5-hours per day? Jonathan Elliot, managing director at Collins SBA, decided to change the firms operating hours to 5-hours per day. Revenue has increased as a result. Less than 12 percent of employees have called in sick. Business benchmarks went up, and more KPI's were achieved. The number of employees replying to e-mails went from 20 to 50 per day. Meetings were shortened to just 30-minutes producing astronomical improvements on execution, delivery, and client satisfaction.

Stephan Aarstol’s company was named the fastest-growing private company in San Diego, and revenues generated more than $9 million with a 5-hour workday. Employees were happier boosting productivity; fatigue vanished, and employee satisfaction skyrocketed. In a book called Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir, they discussed how our capabilities were influenced through less time. When we feel we don't have enough time, we, in turn, become focus driven and create heightened periods of productivity called “focus dividends.” A 5-hour workday provides baked-in time management forcing us to “prioritize high-value activities.” People strategically avoid wasting their times on anything that will not bring value to their efforts and work. People improve their time management skills, becoming purpose-driven and less likely to procrastinate.

Businesses that implemented the 5-hour workday have reaped the rewards. In exchange, employees are engaged, passionate about their work, and proud to work for their employer. One of the best bonuses an employer could give their employee is time to spend with their families and care for their loved ones. The 5-hour work-frame has given business owners and team members the ability to live – live life and enjoy it while making a decent living.

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