Productivity is always a huge deal to employers because they want to see employees bringing real results to the table. They expect workers to perform excellently in every project to ensure all set goals are achieved within the planned period. To most employers, that means implementing the 8-hour workday in their companies. However, is that really a good idea?
Humans don’t work like machines. You can be a witness that even in days when you’re so psyched, you usually get demotivated within a few hours of working. So, working for more hours does not really translate to increased productivity or better results.
How the 8-Hour Work Day Came to Be
Centuries ago, people worked for about 10-16 hours daily because factories had to keep running 24/7. That’s quite brutal, right? There were no robots back then to automate things in factories. However, it didn’t take long before those conditions became too harsh and unsustainable for the workers. Activist leaders like Robert Owen started advocating for factories to change such working conditions. His popular slogan was “Eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest.”
Ford Motor Company was the first business to implement the 8 hours a day system. Although this happened almost a century later, it was a step in the right direction. Indeed, Ford made a great example for other companies to follow.
Surprisingly, reducing the working hours enabled Ford’s employees to be more productive. They could go home early, rest enough, and show up the next day happier, motivating them to harder in their jobs. What’s more, Ford also doubled its workers’ pay, motivating them to do even better.
Does Working Less Hours Increase Productivity?
Nowadays, most people work for eight hours daily. This still seems a bit much, especially when the goal is maximum and consistent productivity.
Working long hours increases can make daily work seem monotonous. You are also likely to get tired both mentally and physically, even when the job isn’t that challenging. As a result, your productivity decreases.
Working fewer hours gives you more time to rest and maintain a great work-life balance. It also forces you to focus when working because you know you only have a few hours to do the job.
Employees who work eight hours daily are likely to procrastinate because they feel they have plenty of time. What’s worse, when they finally decide to complete their assigned tasks, they are usually tired already. Thus, being less productive.
How Many Hours of Work Is Productive?
Average workers are usually productive for about three hours of their entire work day. Therefore, if you work for eight hours daily or more, most of this time is probably wasted somewhere in between. That’s why you find that you mostly do a better job at the beginning of your workday than at the end. That is because you are more motivated, creative, and focused at the beginning.
What Is the Average Productivity of an Employee?
According to the human’s circadian rhythm, you have two productivity peaks in a day. This means there are certain hours when you are more productive than the rest of the day. This explains why you can’t be fully efficient for the entire eight hours.
The first productivity peak is usually in the morning after you wake up and the other around 3-6 pm. In the middle of the day, you are more likely to procrastinate on working on your projects.
Are Shorter Work Days More Productive?
A study involving call center agents indicates that long work hours are a huge cause of low productivity. Another experiment by Toyota adds that shortening work shifts and making them less stressful significantly reduces sick leaves.
Long work hours leave employees sleep deprived, tired, stressed, anxious and unhealthy, eventually causing medical conditions. Hence more people often calling in sick.
Do You Really Work 8 Hours a Day?
An employee in the 8-hour work day system does not work for the entire period. As aforementioned, the productive hours are just three, with the rest being spent on nonwork-related activities. Research shows that many employees spend most of the five hours doing the following things:
- Chatting with workmates
- Reading news online
- Checking their social media pages
- Dealing with endless interruptions and queries
- Making drinks or eating
- Texting and calling
- Looking for new jobs online
How A Healthy Work Culture Impacts Productivity
Sadly, many people are stuck in the 8-hour work system and are dissatisfied with their jobs. That’s why you see most employees spending some of their work hours searching for greener pastures. The 8-hour work day is becoming old school fast as many companies are starting to see the need for their employees to have a healthy work-life balance.
Google is a perfect example of the forward-thinking companies that are doing whatever it takes to change outdated principles. The company offers employees flexible working arrangements, collaboration spaces, and break-out rooms. Doing this gives workers a sense of freedom and community in the company, enabling them to be happier with their jobs. As such, they are more productive in whatever they do.
How Can Team Leaders Help Boost Productivity?
If a company still uses the 8-hour work system, nothing much can be done except hoping for changes in the future. However, as a team leader, there are a few things that you can do to help your team remain productive. These things include:
1. Preventing Extreme Exhaustion and Burnout
Being the team leader, it is your responsibility to ensure your team delivers the expected results. However, while doing so, always try and avoid pushing them extra hard. When employees are fatigued, their productivity declines. This worsens when they are constantly driven beyond their limits.
So, you must learn to spot when they are heading towards burnout points and stop them. You can proceed with the project the following day if possible. If you are managing a remote team, you could use a time tracking app like Traqq to check their productivity hours. That way, you can always be sure what the best time to work on projects is. What’s more, you’ll know when to let them take a break if they show signs of exhaustion.
2. Giving Them a Properly Planned Schedule
Since you now know that employees are most productive for three hours, you could schedule the tricky tasks in the morning. That way, employees can work on those when feeling fresh and motivated. Then, plan the other less exacting tasks for later in the day when employees are a bit tired.
Having such a schedule will ensure that crucial tasks are completed first. Then, the other simpler tasks that can’t affect the team’s performance are done later.
Additionally, the schedule will make the employees stay focused since they know they are expected to deliver projects in a certain order.
3. Setting Short but Manageable Deadlines
Setting a shorter deadline is another excellent way to boost productivity in any business. When employees have a longer deadline, they tend to procrastinate more. This causes them to start working on the assigned task when already bored and uncreative. On the other hand, shorter deadlines make people start working on their assignments immediately, enabling them to finish faster before getting exhausted.
More work hours are usually interpreted to higher productivity which is not necessarily true. Longer work periods have been a norm since centuries ago. However, it is now clear that they do more harm than good, especially to the workers.
The longer you work on a project, the more likely you will get bored with it and, therefore, stop being creative. This is backed up by studies that show working shorter hours in a day makes you more satisfied with your job. As a result, you’ll become a more productive employee.
Traqq is a free time tracking app for Mac and Windows. It helps you stay on track, especially when working from home. If you are a team leader or employer, you could use this software to track your employees’ productivity. With it, you can easily screen record and screenshot their computer screens to see if they are wasting time. That way, you can quickly create a schedule that aligns with their best productivity hours. What’s more, the tool takes screenshots of the employees’ screens without interfering with their work. So, you don’t have to worry about it distracting you or the employees.