Does a 5-hour workday work?

happy man finishing work early, sitting outside with a laptop and a vanilla milkshake, after implementing a 5-hour workday. photo by brooke cagle from unsplash

Is it time to scrap the 9 to 5 and work a 5-hour workday instead?

The 40-hour workweek was revolutionary when it was put in place nearly a century ago. But in a world where people work evenings and weekends to get recognition, is it even accurate anymore?

And are long hours even sustainable? Years ago economists predicted that by 2000 we would all be working 15 hour weeks. This prediction rang about as true as the infamous 2012 end of the world nonsense, but should it?

Many studies have shown that shorter working days drastically improve productivity, boost workplace morale and lead to happier employees.

And as Gen Z enter the workplace, this kind of perk could set your company apart from the rest. Younger people value things like mental health and work-life balance so much that a shorter working week could be the difference between accepting your job offer or your competitor’s.

So is it time to implement a 5-hour workday at your business? We’ll give you the low-down on all of the benefits and challenges of a shorter working day to help you decide.

The Good

Psychologists have shown that no matter how many working hours we cram in, we’re only truly productive for a few of them. So by cutting the fat and shortening our working day we can maximise productivity while maximising fun after work!

Many people often work upwards of 40 hours a week. So decreasing your daily working hours could help your employees better structure their days and create work-life balance.

Balancing work and life is not only great for hobbies. It’s also great if you are a parent, carer or student. If you can finish all of your work by the early afternoon, you’ve got the rest of the day for your other responsibilities.

Creating a shorter working week could also help your company to be more accessible to people with chronic illnesses. Working a shorter day could help them attend regular medical appointments without feeling like they’re missing out on work.

It’s also great for students who might have to juggle education and part-time employment.

Shorter hours could also lead to other hidden benefits too – you could schedule your day to skip the commuter rush while having time to work on your side hustle in the afternoons.

woman stressed out at her work desk after having too much work to complete in a 5-hour workday. photo by energpiccom from pexels

The Bad

But shorter working days also come with their challenges. With only 5 hours on the clock, it’s easy to feel the pressure to get the same amount of work done as usual, but within a smaller timeframe.

Shockingly, two firms have found that they lost employees after trialling a shorter working day. One company lost two of its 16 employees and another saw 4 people leave within 3 months.

For any small business, retention issues like this can be catastrophic.

If you are thinking of implementing a shorter working day, consider giving your employees an extra day to complete tasks as part of the adjustment period. They might not always need this extra time but it will help reduce stress!

The Ugly

As well as causing more stress, some managers have said that 5-hour workdays create a hostile work environment.

As productivity is prioritised at work, your colleagues will miss out on office chit chat and socials. This doesn’t help your employees foster a sense of camaraderie and can drastically change your company culture.

On the other hand, shorter working days could provide more time for team meals and fun activities outside of standard working hours.

Plus, if your employees have more fun time outside of work they are likely to bring a positive attitude to work.

Remote working and 5-hour workdays

If your team is working from home, it’s hard to keep track of productivity. But 5-hour workdays could help.

Fewer hours will encourage better productivity in your teams. It’s much easier (and more fun for everyone) when you track the quality of work someone produces, rather than the time spent at their desk!

And many workers have reported that they have been overworked since working from home. Encouraging shorter working days can help your employees to avoid burnout and create a better work-life balance.

Plus, shorter workdays could help you create a COVID-friendly office. You could stagger your employee’s shifts to ensure social distancing.

Should you try a 5-hour workday?

The mixed results might put you off but what’s clear is that shorter workdays are great for productivity.

While some workers feel more stressed working shorter days, they can still produce the same amount of quality work.

The success of 5-hour workdays comes when you ensure that the same amount of work gets completed in less time. This maximises productivity – which is great for business and gives people more free time!

But a 5-hour day might not work for everyone. While some might cherish having more free time every day, others might prefer a full day to log-off from work – so a 4-day week might better suit them. Either way, you’ll be focusing on their output and not their hours – your employees will earn the same amount but have more time to enjoy their paycheque!

A shorter working day isn’t an alternative to working on your company culture or helping your employees avoid burnout. It should only be implemented alongside other schemes which aid your employees’ mental health – not instead of.

Before starting a shorter working day, talk to your team to see if they’d be up for it. It might work well for people with childcare or other caring responsibilities while others might be against the idea.

While shorter working days could improve work-life balance, this isn’t a guarantee. Whatever you choose, continue to check in with your employees to make sure they are coping well with their workload and not overworking!