There’s a movement afoot to shorten the traditional 40-hour full-time work week to a 30 hour work week.
Spurred by increasing concerns about our always-on culture and the popularity of books like “The 4-Hour Workweek,” by Timothy Ferriss, the concept has some merit. But can it possibly work for a small business?
Shorter work weeks have many benefits, those who support the concept contend. Some of the arguments in favor include:
- Benefit to the environment, because employees aren’t commuting as much, which typically involves public transportation or driving; (A book by experts from the New Economics Foundation argues that a 30 hour work week would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, helping the planet.)
- Reduction of emotional and physical stress for workers by allowing them more time to rest and recharge;
- Stimulation of the economy because workers can spend money on leisure pursuits during their time off;
- Allowance for workers to contribute to society in other ways, like volunteering or taking classes that make them more productive in the long run.
Many other nations are more productive than the U.S. with shorter work weeks. The German economy is famously robust, but workers only put in an average of 35 hours a week.
Here are a few other things to consider:
A 30 hour work week may not be welcomed by hourly workers who need the extra income from working 40 hours. It’s more of a perk for salaried workers, especially in knowledge industries, who often put in 50, 60 or more hours per week.
Cutting to a 30 hour work week won’t allow your business to reduce benefits or healthcare in most cases. Full-time under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is defined as any employee who works 30 or more hours on average per week. Under Obamacare regulations, a full-time employee is defined as anyone working 30 hours a week.
A 30 hour work week is obviously easier to implement in a huge corporation with lots of employees to fill in the vacated hours. For small businesses with only a few employees, it’s a bit more challenging.
How can a small business owner implement a 30 hour work week? Here are some ideas:
- Give everyone the same day or days off. The most obvious solution is to implement a 4-day, 7.5-hour schedule for all employees. Give people the day off that’s typically slowest for your business.
- Rotate days off. If you can’t have your entire office closed on certain days, create a schedule that provides enough coverage to handle work each day while still giving every employee one day a week off.
- Use a seasonal approach. Implement a 30 hour work week during slower times of year and a 40-hour work week during busier times.
- Set up a system where employees are in the office 30 hours a week and can work at home the other day. This isn’t a true 30 hour work week, but does provide more flexibility.
- Set workplace quotas instead of hours. Require employees to get a certain amount of work done, ideally in 30 hours. If they can’t complete it, they’ll need to work longer, but the possibility of a shorter work week is highly motivating. You’ll need to make sure the quality of work doesn’t suffer.
While a 30 hour work week may not be realistic for you, the business owner, you might find that being at the office 30 hours and spending more time away improves your results. Even if you are working, you’ll be able to focus better and strategize the big picture since you won’t be putting out fires all day long or interrupted by employees.
Last, but not least, if the 30 hour work week just won’t fit your team, consider implementing the 10/40 system, where employees work 10 hours a day, four days a week. Although it means longer workdays, many employees find the day off is worth the trade.
Treating employees well makes your business a better place to work, makes your employees more energetic, and helps you attract and keep workers. Sometimes, you really can get more from less.
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