In Europe, a concept has been developing for a while now: the 5 hour work day, which ends at 1 pm and amounts to a 28 hour work week rather than 35.
This idea is based on statistics that suggest that the amount of time one can stay focused and productive while working is limited to about 3 hours. With work days lasting up to 8 hours - the standard within most companies - one might encounter numerous distractions leading to decreased productivity: Facebook check-ups, coffee breaks, Instagram check-ups, bathroom breaks...
The 5 hour work day aims to limit this waste of time, concentrate tasks within a shorter time period, and allow employees to enjoy their afternoon. They are then more focused and productive when coming into work the next day.
This concept is still very new in Europe, and even more so in Canada. Still, it is worth exploring, especially when combining this idea with the current pandemic situation we are going through.
Think about it: right now, many companies are still confined and working from home. We are aiming to limit unnecessary traveling, so we work from a distance whenever possible.
But working from home brings on certain difficulties. The main one, for many, is focus. We are surrounded by distractions: our pantry whispering our name, our cat/dog/parrot asking to play every five minutes, our toddler begging for attention… And the nice weather outside which makes you want to lie down in the sun and take a nap.
Could the 5 hour work day offer the ideal solution to fight against those distractions?
Picture it. It’s 8, maybe 9, and you’re settling in to work. Outside, the sun is shining, but instead of worrying about wasting such a nice day, you remind yourself that at 1pm, you can go out and enjoy it!
Your dog begs you for its daily walk: no problem, you’ll go this afternoon. Facebook and Instagram sound impossible to resist: knowing you’ll have time to distract yourself on those platforms after lunch, the temptation subdues.
The work you’d get done during the afternoon, diluted by a thousand little moments of inattention, is then condensed during your morning. But it’s important to follow one strict rule: for it to work, you have to banish any and all distractions and fully focus on your work during those 5 hours of productivity.
Different strategies can be put into place: shutting your phone down and keeping it in a separate room (if you don’t need it for work, obviously), restricting the use of certain apps (it’s possible - explore your settings!), working in a more secluded room during work hours...
Obviously, this concept won’t be put in place tomorrow morning, at least not on a large scale. But as we explore the future of working from home on a long-term basis, it is interesting to evaluate how this new work structure could be shaped.
If we’re going to develop a new system, why not revise the way we conceptualize productivity?