If the thought of a five hour work day in the corporate world of business seems impossible, you should really take a look at what Collins SBA of Tasmania is doing to shake the industry norm. A simple look at their website shows a slightly different face than you'd expect from a Financial Advisory company. They don't mince words about their alternative approach either - along with titles of "advisor" or "director" are Hiker, Diver, Coach, Architect, and Cook. This simple recognition about some of the people who make up the company gives you an inside look at how the company views their employees.
This recognition of the person past their profession is exactly where the idea of the five hour work day was conceived. Jonathon Elliot, the managing director of Collins SBA, was wondering how he was could support his wife as she underwent treatments for cancer. He knew he couldn't change the work he had to do to fulfill his duties, but he questioned if he could change his approach to the work. He questioned if the practice of a six-hour workday which he'd seen Swedish companies use, or even the five-hour workday proposed in the book by Stephan Aarstol could be implemented.
He had to ask himself if the day could be shortened by three hours without losing the same percentage of work done. Could he and others be more efficient with their time? He believed it could happen if there was a mental-shift away from the eight-hour workday as well as some practical changes implemented to the daily routine around the office.
Elliot, alongside Collins' operation manager, convinced the executive team to give it a try. There were a few policies put into place alongside the shift to a shorter workday. Employees had to arrive between 8 am and 9 am and complete 5 straight hours of work without a break. If by 1 pm or 2 pm they completed all their work, they could go home without it being considered going home early. They also had to be at work between 9 am and 1 pm to make sure they could work and communicate together without missing out on time with other employees. Everyone was to use common sense to make sure they fulfilled their clients' expectations and needs. And lastly, the five-hour work day was a privilege, not a right.
Cutting hours while maintaining productivity.
This change meant there needed to be more self-accountability in starting on time, working efficiently, and having less of a social feel around the office. To get eight hours of work done in five there wouldn't be time to catch up with co-workers, take a lunch break, or check in with friends about evening plans while walking across the street to get a coffee. These changes seem hard to put into practice and may make a more relaxed eight hour work day look appealing, but the incentives were clearly a motivating factor. Employees were able to pick up their kids from school, attend their sporting events, and even miss rush hour traffic.
A major challenge the CPA would face is the same one Collin's employees had to - their clients couldn't notice they were working less based on their output. There had to be no sacrifice to the quantity or quality of work done in five or eight hours. For the CPA, this would mean timely responses to clients which could mean still responding to phone calls as you would during a conventional workday even after you clock out. The five-hour work day would not work during busy season, but the practices implemented during the rest of the year could actually make busy season more efficient which might provide even one more hour more of sleep a night possible.
How did it work out?
A year after implementing the five-hour workday, Collins SBA reported their financials to be as they expected. This showed that working three hours less a day, 15 hours less a week, 60 hours less a month, 720 hours less a year, or however you want to look at it made no difference in the companies profits. They merely changed how they were working to make every hour count.
This resulted in the culture changing - namely being a less social environment, which the company compensated with mandatory social events every other month. They also attracted top talent in recruiting which used to look past them to bigger companies. Their current workers and prospects had more reason to be motivated as they were still paid the same, for the same work done, with the incentive of getting it done in a shorter period of time meaning an earlier departure. They noticed employees coming to work more prepared, meetings running smoothly and timely, and individuals achieving personal records without sacrificing quality of service to clients.
Not everything was perfect. Workers reported higher levels of stress and feelings of failure when they couldn't get their work done by 1 pm. Others noted not eating until 1 pm resulted in feeling drained towards the end. Collins' now coaches employees on workplace practices and analyzing individuals workload and provides healthy snacks at your desk. Again, they are not caving to the personal or social caveats, but what it takes to optimize the workflow and lives of their employees.
Just think what it would look like if this happened in the world of the CPA. While many may laugh it off they should take a second look at what it means to attract top talent. How much longer would someone stick with your company knowing they worked around 700 hours less a year while making the same salary as the competition. How would it feel to pick your kids up from school or have three extra hours before rushing home to make dinner?
One thing is for sure - if you worked for a company like that it would be a game changer for your life.