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The Average Worker Is Only Productive for About 3 Hours a Day

Ester Brierley September 16, 2019

In the modern business world, employers often expect that they will boost corporate productivity if they make their salaried employees work as much as possible, every day. However, the truth is that long work hours make employees feel stressed. They start to make more mistakes, lose motivation, get sick, or even leave. Moreover, long work hours increase mortality by 20%.

The truth is that the number of work hours doesn’t affect productivity. According to research, the average employee stays productive for less than three hours a day, regardless of how much time they stay in the office. Most employees accomplish three hours of work and spend the rest of their time on social media, chatting with colleagues, making calls, or looking for another job where they could have a better work-life balance. While some employers think that they can fix this problem by implementing more strict policies and punishing employees for activities that have nothing to do with work, the truth is that you cannot change the way the human brain works. Most people cannot concentrate on one task for more than 20 minutes at a time, so increasing productivity is not about working long but working smart.

3 Hours of Productivity

Back in the 18th century, people used to have 10-16 hour workdays. The reasoning behind this was that factories should run 24/7. However, it quickly became clear that such long days were unsustainable. An eight-hour workday became a standard after Ford Motor Company cut down daily hours and increased wages. The results were great, and productivity quickly increased. Thus, the fact that workers don’t need to work more to be more productive is nothing new.

According to research, the average American only works two hours and 53 minutes a day, regardless of how long they sit at the office. People spend about an hour reading the news, 44 minutes scrolling their feed on social media, 40 minutes chatting with coworkers, 26 minutes looking for a new job, 23 minutes taking smoke breaks, and so on. While it may seem that people only work three hours out of eight because of their laziness, the truth is that these breaks help them make their working day more bearable so that they can get back to work being more productive.

The eight-hour workday doesn’t work. It often makes employees feel exhausted and makes them look for other job opportunities. Of course, reducing it to three hours doesn’t sound like a possible solution, but what else can companies do to make their employees more productive and happy at the same time? The solution is flexibility. Schedule flexibility can not only make your employees more motivated and productive, but it can also make your company more appealing to a vast range of professionals who are now looking for a new job to escape their eight-hour routine. Here are five ways to create a flexible work culture.

1. Build an environment of mutual trust.

Today, flexible hours are one of the most common things employees look for when choosing a company. Even though employment law allows anyone to request flexible work hours after working for a company for at least 26 weeks, many people are afraid to ask for it because they think it may only make them lose their current position. Thus, the main thing is to establish trust. You should trust that your employees will manage their time and remain productive, while the employees should know that such requests will not put them in danger.

2. Limit meetings.

As we’ve already mentioned above, staying at work and actually working on important tasks are two different things. Perhaps, the best example of wasted time is meetings. Instead of working, employees spend many hours on meetings that are often unnecessary. If you need to communicate some message, we recommend that you think of whether you can do it by sending emails or contacting your employees using various messengers or social media.

3. Set clear objectives.

To create a flexible work culture, you should set clear objectives. Flexibility in the workplace is all about quality over quantity. “To manage their time successfully, your employees should understand what exactly they must achieve, what are their long-term and short-term goals, and how their tasks relate to their managers’ tasks. I recommend that you stick with the MAD approach: the company’s goals should be Measurable, Actionable, and Deliverable,” explains Sarah McDowell, HR manager at College-Writers.

4. Provide the necessary training.

Every time you introduce a new concept in the workplace, you should make sure that your employees get the necessary training. Fortunately, modern technologies make training easier than ever. There are many desktop and mobile applications that allow you to train employees with no need to gather them in the same room, at the same time.

5. Consider employee feedback.

You should also make sure that all the employees will be treated fairly and equally. Thus, you should decide how exactly your flexible working program will run. There are some important questions you should answer. Will your employees get to work from home, and how often? What should they be able to access from home? Can they work from home for a whole week? What tools do they need? How often should they be in the office? Can they split their days? Feedback from employees will help you plan everything according to their needs and your goals.

It makes sense for companies to focus on specific goals and tasks instead of the time employees spend at work. A flexible work culture allows employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance, which leads to better productivity. When employees are able to manage their time properly they can achieve more while spending less time at work.

Equity and Inclusion / Stakeholder Capitalism
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