By Leeson Medhurst, Workplace Consultant for The Fourfront Group
Sweden’s example and adopting a 6-hour working week would be beneficial for UK output and productivity levels, not to mention staff morale. If we give our workforces the option of working less hours (but with the expectation that the original workload can still be maintained), then employees will automatically have a greater level of focus when it comes to effectively utilising their time.
A six-hour working day will do wonders when it comes to lessening the impact of day-to-day interruptions and distractions. By default, people working to tighter timescales are less consumed by interruptions, such as office gossip and social media. While we all embrace social media as a necessary form of communication, it can also be a massive disruptor to our productivity and output. When you have a limited period of time to complete a task, you’ll get your head down and work.
British companies that offer unlimited holiday or flexi-time tend to encourage stronger values and ethics amongst their staff than those that don’t. When employees have the freedom to decide where and when they work, they don’t abuse that trust. In many ways, this level of freedom encourages a stronger collaborative culture; because, when given an element of freedom, people are more accountable – they’re also increasingly mindful as to how their approach to work will affect others. In general, people don’t want to let other people down.
If a company offers their staff that little bit extra, people will give something back. If you offer flexibility, you’ll receive flexibility in return. If you trust your staff, you’ll be trusted. If you respect the people you work with, you’ll be respected. If businesses want to encourage a collaborative culture, then business leaders must be the cultural ambassadors and lead by example. If employers enforce a structured and regimented routine, employees may not be as receptive when it comes to going above and beyond, or working out-of-hours. By adopting Sweden’s approach, these archaic values – this ‘what’s in it for me?’ mindset – will slowly be driven out; meaning you’ll have a more engaged, respectful and productive workforce.
Finally, it’s worth considering the benefits of measuring employees by their success as opposed to their visibility – although traditionally monitored, the latter does not improve the chances of success. If anything, the constant ‘need to be seen to be working’ may hinder output because people rarely work to the best of their ability when forced into a regimented regime. Organisations must also realise that the attitude towards work is changing. Generation Y are aware that they can be more productive in four hours than they can in ten; that they can be more creative if they can pick and choose where they work; that they can be more happy and hard-working if allowed more freedom… Generation Y will not thrive in a standard 9 to 5 job. This new work-savvy generation know that they possess highly transferable skill sets; as such, talented individuals do not want to be bound by employment contracts. As an employer, that’s an attractive prospect – paying for output as opposed to hours. In addition, young people are going to be happier and healthier working for a company that gives them the freedom to work flexibly – this is a massive benefit to these millennials. Companies that offer more freedom will attract the future generation of talent.