You probably don’t work 8 hours per every day, even when your contract says that. This is totally normal!
The prevalent 8-hour schedule which most jobs and industries adhere to is not specified based on human needs or human behavior; In fact, back in 1914 it was started by Ford when he reduced the number of the work hours from the standard 10-16 hours to just 8 hours. What an innovation!
This resulted in higher productivity levels among their staff. So why is it so difficult for us to believe that another reduction in working hours is upon us?
We no longer live in the shadow of the Industrial Revolution when an 8-hour shift was very efficient. Today, during our information and digital revolution, we have tools that help us in getting work done much faster, and we are accustomed to doing more than just working on one task during the day.
In fact, studies reveal that people only focus about 3 hours per day on their work tasks, and the rest will be spent on other activities, such as:
- Reading news sites
- Check social media
- Discuss activities outside of work with colleagues.
- Text / instant messaging
- Making hot drinks
- smoke breaks
- Making food in the office.
- Eating snacks
- Searching for new jobs
- Make calls to partner/friends
For those who do not smoke, they do well to substitute this chore with other tasks throughout the day. And again, this is completely okay. The problem is not the employee but the old commitment to working 8 hours every day.
The worst part is that we know that we are only productive for 3 hours each day, but we get paid to stay 8 hours anyway. Imagine the savings your company could have if they accepted this reality and sent you home after 3 or 4 hours.
According to the law of Parkinson: “Work expands to fill the time available to complete it.”
And while it may be true that this adage was born out of simple observation, this has been proven time and time again in many industries around the world. What would happen next, if the time to complete was cut in half?
Many organizations are beginning to ask themselves this question, but the risk of not getting the results that they are getting now is too great. Perhaps the problem is that they are misreading the concept of productivity.
The number of hours put in during the day should not be taken as the right indicator of how productive an employee is. Nearly 20 years ago, when I started work in the IT industry, I was required to record the time of the day I got to the office, as well as the time of the day I left.
Not staying for the mandatory eight hours was a sure query from your boss. After a while, this turned into a time tracking for my projects, which was quite silly, because some managers will require you to fill in numbers so they end up adding up to 8 hours. Even if you only worked 5 hours during that day, no one really cared about reality, they only cared about the scale and the end result.
The question is why are there still some industries where an 8-hour workday is a still mandatory?
Why can’t we adopt other productivity metrics, like:
Measure the result of our task. Did we do the task? Was it done in 4 hours instead of 6? Who cares? You got the item on time, so please let things be.
Checking if employees are participating actively. Are they ambitious to getting the job done? So don’t worry about the number of hours they spend in the office.
Listen and give continuous feedback. Comments are a great tool that is often overlooked. We can use it to convey positive and negative thoughts and to modify bad behaviors. Even peer feedback can offer a great way to understand the performance of an employee based on feedback from colleagues.
We know for sure that we are only working actively on work related tasks 3 hours daily. If companies can adjust the way they productivity is measured to take this fact into account, planning, workload estimates, and project management will benefit from a new level of granularity that we lack at the moment.
Do we need to improve our productivity?
Nowadays we are used to working 8 hours a day, therefore, those tasks that usually take more than half of the day, are no longer by choice. We need them to spend the day.
Our daily 4pm tea break is essential to recharge our minds. And that second breakfast at ten in the morning? It is mandatory to attend the daily meeting on Friday.
You could say we’re on average 37.5% productive today (this is just basic math here to illustrate a point). That is terrible, but we’re way past that number.
The truth of the matter is that even when we say we need 4 hours a day, if we don’t take steps to improve our current productivity, we’ll have trouble by the time we get what we want. After all, we are talking about raising our daily productivity from 37.5% to 70%.
Yes, if we want to be successful in this new reality we need to increase our productivity.
How can we achieve that?
Measure, measure and measure again. To find out where you are not productive, you need to understand where you spend the most time. So the first thing you need to do is measure how you spend your working hours. As soon as you have this number, begin to deal with the most important tasks and exclude unnecessary ones. You can also use tools that help you optimize your time, just like file sharing websites to send big file anywhere. We already know that we now spend a significant amount of time checking social media, reading news sites, and even texting friends. Try laser focus on your work and get rid of unnecessary tasks, you will notice that in the long run you will have more time for it.