Is less really more? When it comes to a shorter workweek, the answer may be “yes.” The idea is that businesses become more efficient and employees achieve a greater work-life balance by reducing the workweek to 30-hours. It’s been tried with some success. Get the facts on a 30-hour workweek and consider if it’s right for your small business.
The benefits of a shorter workweek have some basis in science. One study found that people’s brains, especially those over 40, function best working about 25 hours a week. These workers were able to perform at peak levels of performance. That’s an advantage to a business trying to improve productivity.
There is also a connection between the length of the workweek and health status. Research published in The Lancet reports that people who work over 55 hours a week are at a higher risk for coronary heart disease and stroke. In contrast, work-related illnesses for employees who worked only 30-hour weeks decreased from 6.4 percent to 5.8 percent. That’s good news if you offer health care benefits for your employees.
In another study, the Monthly Labor Review found that 28 percent of employees would give up part of their pay in exchange for working fewer hours. Some would argue that no reduction is necessary since the same amount of work is being done, just in less time. Others recognize the impact a reduction would have on retention.
Research can be helpful but how does a 30-hour week perform in the real world? A nursing home in Sweden tried it with their caregiver staff. After the first year, they experienced sharply reduced absenteeism along with improved productivity and worker health. Similarly, small businesses in Sweden found that a shorter workday can reduce turnover and enhance employee creativity.
Some businesses are concerned that shorter workweeks mean they’ll have to hire additional workers to be fully staffed. In fact, that’s what happened to the Swedish nursing home. But small businesses found that their staff learned how to be more efficient. One employee said, “Since we work fewer hours, we’re always looking for ways to do more with our time.”
Amazon is piloting a 30-hour workweek for their technical staff. They want to tap into a more diverse segment of the workforce that does not fit the traditional fulltime schedule.
In addition, some businesses report a reduction in operating costs like heating and electricity by going to a shorter workweek.
There is growing support that a 30-hour workweek may help to improve productivity while providing a greater work-life balance for your employees. Consider whether less could mean more for your small business.