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5 Steps to Move Your Company to a 5-Hour Workday


Think a five-hour workday sounds like a crazy idea? There’s plenty of evidence that it will actually help your team get more done in less time, and be happier while doing it. After all, recent research shows that on average we waste a whopping 61 percent of our workdays. Plus, there’s precedent.

Over in Sweden, one local government mandated a six-hour day for a slice of public sector employees. So far with great results (though the experiment is still relatively new). And even here in the U.S. companies from scrappy startups to behemoths like Amazon are experimenting with shortened workweeks.

All of which bolsters the case that your people could probably do the same amount of work a lot more efficiently. But if you’re buying this argument, exactly how do you proceed? You can’t just come in one day and announce that everyone can go home at 2pm. (Can you?)

Nope, says Stephan Aarstol, founder and CEO of paddleboard company Tower, in a recent Business Insider post. In the piece, Aarstol discusses his company’s transition from a traditional 40-hour week to abbreviated hours, outlining the many ways the new schedule has been successful, and also offering a handy five-step process for other business leaders considering following in his footsteps.

1. Apply the Pareto Principle.

According to this famous dictum, 80 percent of your results generally come from 20 percent of your effort. Aarstol is a staunch believer in the idea. He says the first step to cutting your hours is to “evaluate your workday to identify those 20 percent activities and eliminate the rest.”

2. Focus on outcomes, not time.

Unless your employees are standing on an assembly line, hours don’t matter — only results count. Enshrine that reality in your HR policies. “To help my team shift to a production mindset, I rolled out a profit-sharing plan where 5 percent of profits are doled out to employees who demonstrate exemplary productivity,” writes Aarstol.

3. Communicate your new hours to customers.

This one could vary by industry, but in the relatively slow-paced world of paddleboards, the only impediment to a cut in customer service hours was getting over the mindset that you need to be always available and then communicating the new reality to customers.

“I realized that we didn’t run a convenience store. Our customers bought new paddleboards maybe once every five years. It didn’t matter when we were open as long as our customers knew our hours,” notes Aarstol. “So we made the switch, and nothing fell apart. We still get roughly the same number of calls each day, and emails are usually answered within hours.”

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