In the United States, in particular, but in many competitive communities throughout the world as well, the goal of business is always "more" - more work, more output, more profits, more intensity.
Some of these things make sense; everyone loves more output of work, and more profit can greatly expand the options a business has. However, there is another important phrase to consider when pursuing business success: less is more.
However contradictory, this phrase clues us into the fact that sometimes, going headlong after the thing you want can result in the opposite of your desired aim.
Studies of productivity, for instance, show that people working 50 or 60 hours a week get a truly minuscule marginal utility for each additional hour you work. Translation: Hours 1, 2, and 3 are way more impactful to the bottom line than hours 56, 57, and 58. When your workers are exhausted, it makes their current work worse, but also burns them out, meaning that hours 1, 2, and 3 next week will also be less productive.
30 Hour Work Weeks, or 4 day work week jobs, offer one solution to the conundrum of how to get more without intensifying your workplace. When you want great work from your employees, sometimes, less is more.
Less Hours Worked = More Healthy Days
Our immune systems aren't strong unless we strengthen them, so every late-night work session that a worker accomplishes creates a toll on the future of his or her work. We've all had those days where we arrive at the office, bleary, because we couldn't really let go of the work from the day before. What you gain in last-minute rush work, perhaps 1 or 2 of those low-production hours, is lost in listlessness the following day, and may be lost in two or three days of time off when an individual must take sick leave to recover from a virus they caught during their work marathon.
So, while it can seem surprising at first, you actually get more productive days and hours with shorter work weeks. If your workers have the time they need to recover from each day's efforts, their immune systems can fight off more of the viruses and germs that circulate in our daily lives. The tradeoff is a good one for morale as well: a general feeling of health is so much more positive than the January or February where a solid 10% of the office is consistently out with a cold on a rotating basis.
Less Stress = More Energy
Energy levels matter when it comes to many creative or problem-solving driven jobs: someone who is answering phones consistently and talking to customers, for instance, has the ability to do a better job when he or she is energetic and can think critically. Stress, be it positive or negative stress, still tends to narrow our vision: when stressed, individuals tend to focus on the path out of the stress, rather than on the world of other possibilities around them.
Feeling energetic isn't something that most of us can sustain for an entire day of grueling labor: hour 11 of a shift simply isn't the same as hour 2. By shortening the shifts or giving fewer of them each week, you offer your employees the chance to refill with energy through activities they enjoy or rejuvenating sleep. You'd be surprised by how much of workplace stress is more about how much individuals are working, not based on the difficulty of the problems. Your workers can approach more difficult challenges with optimism and energy if they are, overall, getting more time away from the office.
Less Daily Hassle and Rush = More Satisfaction
While most of us know that employees are constantly evaluating their options, few people think about workplace satisfaction in terms of the component parts that might make someone want to stay and work hard. One factor is the element of hassle and rush. If your company cultivates a structure where, last minute, projects are completed in ultra-long shifts that result in very high work week hours, you can safely assume that many of your employees are considering whether somewhere else might offer them less stressful, high-pressure work.
While some deadlines cannot be helped, managing expectations with customers in order to reinforce a shorter work week and clear delegation to other employees when necessary are completely possible, and can be very profitable. With many studies estimating that losing an employee costs thousands of dollars for a company in hiring and training costs, it is in your best interest to figure out how to reduce hassle and rush in the workplace. You may save yourself tons of money in reduced turnover by promoting a satisfied workforce with extensive work-life balance.
Less Emphasis on the 9-5 = More Focus on Making an Impact
Many high-achieving workers face a frustrating dilemma; their work is good and they finish it rapidly, but they must be in their workplace from 9-5 no matter what. This incentivizes working slower, since the reward for working quickly is just... more work! Companies that have implemented 4 day work weeks are seeing a different trend: rather than focusing on how to stretch the work to fit 40 hours, the employees are using creative problem-solving to make the work more efficient, so they can fit it into 30 hours.
By not making each employee focus on being available for standard business hours, the focus is shifted back onto the work itself. If there is a company culture that emphasizes shorter work weeks as long as the work is done, there is a major incentive to use company time well. Once again, less is more for 30 hour work week jobs.
It may seem counterintuitive at first, but creating an environment where you aim for "enough" hours rather than "as many hours as possible" may be the most sustainable way to grow and improve your business. As a worker, you too want to aim for balance in your life that enables you to keep striving for longer. The 4 day work week may be the path to that goal!