‘Working 9-5, what a way to make a living’ – we all know how the song goes. But is it still applicable in 2017? In a world more connected than ever, should it still be ‘bums on seats’ that businesses see as important?
For every study into working hours or working from home, there’s always a counter study. Sweden have been at the forefront of asking the world stage to consider how we work and have been recently taking headlines with their Svartedalens nursing home. This group of nurses worked a six hour day for an eight hour day salary, with a control group working the conventional eight hours.
The study showed staff on a reduced hour day took half as much sick leave as their eight hour counterparts and were 2.8 time less likely to take time in a two-week period. Staff were also reported to be 20% happier with more energy, crucially allowing them to do 64% more activities with residents. Counter arguments cite an additional £6,000,000 of costs for hiring additional staff to make up the time, but fail to note that the reduction in cover for sick leave halved this figure.
It’s all too easy to dismiss this instance as industry specific and it is true that certain areas such as nursing would lend themselves to this type of working arrangement. However, in an office environment, Toyota employed the same arrangement in Gothenburg 13 years ago and still continue happily with their 6 hour days. They have reported more contented staff, increased productivity during working hours, lower staff turnover and increased profit since employing the scheme. Certainly studies demonstrate that we produce our best and most concentrated work in the first three hours of the day. Beyond that productivity begins to ebb, and a six hour day helps focus and motivate staff for the time that they are in the office.
With the time pressure of events, a reduction in working hours does seem difficult to reconcile. Absolutely, within events we face irregular hours and clearly a six hour working day isn’t applicable on site. However, we can’t forget that an eight-hour day also isn’t applicable either and we’re really questioning office time in-between.
The question also broaches the concept of working from home. For many this is dismissed along with working less hours as counterproductive, claiming staff are less motivated and achieve less. Studies and personal experience would demonstrate to me that the reality is very different from this. With less time travelling and no office distractions, productivity is shown to be more effective from home.
When Ctrip gave their employees the option of a nine month trial working from home they worked much more efficiently, proving that flexible working arrangements don’t hinder performance. Research published in the ‘journal of Psychological Science in the Public Interest’ has shown that flexible working, whether that be the ability to work from home when possible, or flexi-time, is beneficial in productivity, performance and employee job satisfaction and mental health.
It is worth noting that for Ctrip the approach did not work with all employees. For the minority it didn’t work out and productivity dropped so that they returned to the office.
In short, the ability to work from home or a shorter working day depends on your staff. Of course there will be busier periods where staff cannot complete their ‘to doist if they left at 15:30. But are those same staff not more likely to stay late and apply themselves when it’s a busy period, if they were trusted to leave earlier when possible? Are staff self-motivate enough to get their work load done working from home?
Events is a world in which to be successful, employees need to have initiative and have a strong work ethic. Ultimately, working flexibility is a question of trust between employer and employee and in the varied and demanding world of events this is something that it is wise to establish.
Written by: Sophie Smith (Project Coordinator)
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