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The Era Of The 8-Hour Workday May Be Coming To An End

The Era Of The 8-Hour Workday May Be Coming To An End

The U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act established the standard 40-hour work week with which most Americans are intimately familiar. However, technology has slowly been encroached on many American workers’ off hours in recent years. While many employees are only asked to be in-office during the typical 9 a.m.–5 p.m. work hours, smartphones make employees available for work-related emails and texts 24/7.

Will There Be A Global 'Right To Disconnect'?

For employers, this constant contact with employees may seem like a great opportunity to make business operations run more smoothly. However, a growing number of countries and companies are experimenting with the idea that workers are actually more productive when they receive more time away from work.

In addition to its legally-mandated 35-hour work week, France recently instituted a new law requiring all companies with at least 50 employees to spell out rules regarding after-hours communications. The so-called “right to disconnect” law is aimed at protecting employees right to maintaining their personal time away from work.

Automaker Volkswagen AG (ADR) (OTC: VLKAY) has made after-hours disconnecting mandatory. The company’s email servers shut down after the work day ends.

Sweden is taking work-week experimentation one step further. The Swedish government has been experimenting with 30-hour workweeks and has gotten positive preliminary results. Companies that have been part of the 30-hour work-week experiment have reported reductions in absenteeism and improvements in worker health. Perhaps most importantly, productivity is also up.

What's Coming For America?

Improved productivity is the major reason why these experiments may soon become more than just an interesting read for American workers., Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) has already been experimenting with 30-hour workweeks for certain employees. The employees are paid the same hourly rates as full-time employees and have all the standard benefits of full-time employees as well.

Other companies are opting to combat the extended hours that have become standard in the modern work environment by shortening the workweek by one day. According to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management, 43 percent of companies now offer four-day workweeks to some employees and 10 percent of companies offer it to most or all employees.

Tax services firm Ryan reports that employee turnover dropped from 30 percent to 11 percent after the company implemented a flexible workweek program.

Reusser Design asks employees to work 10.5 hours a day, four days a week for a total of 42 hours per week. The company reports that employees are more focused, more productive and can spend more time per workday on a single project.

Bottom Line: Things Will Probably Change

The next era of business growth in America could be less about adding employees and expanding operations and more about using creativity and analytics to improve productivity and efficiency. A big part of those improvements may involve bidding farewell to the eight-hour workday of the 20th century.


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