We hear all the time about people in France and Germany, or some other European country, who only have to work 35 hours per week. The story is always the same: They get roughly a million days vacation every year, great benefits, and email is blocked on weekends. As a result, everyone’s happier, and production is just as high (if not higher) than in countries like the UK & US where hours are listed as “infinity” and presenteeism is an issue!
One CEO put it to the test on American soil to see if fewer work hours
equated to higher productivity.
Mark Douglas of SteelHouse (an advertising and marketing company) ran an experiment wherein he’d assure that all employees enjoyed a three-day weekend every single month of the year. Before we go on, that really only equates to an extra five days off per year since there are already seven three-day weekends peppered throughout the work year. Douglas told Business Insider, “you’re taking a bet that this will ultimately benefit everyone, including the company.” Douglas implemented “SteelHouse Days” on either a Monday or Friday during the months without three-day weekends to go along with a $2,000 vacation allowance for all the employees to use to go somewhere and unwind.
Well, it’s a year later and it’s paid off big for Douglas and SteelHouse. Productivity and general worker happiness are way up. But, there’s a crucial component to this test. The days off are days off for everyone. The whole company shuts down like it’s Christmas Day. That way, half the employees don’t have to be at work while the other half get a free day. Everyone’s on the same footing and able to completely walk away from the office. “When you make it so the whole team does it,” Douglas said, “it really does give the entire team a long weekend — a built-in, ‘enjoy-yourself’ time each month of the year.”
Douglas tells Business Insider that the give-and-take mentality of the monthly three-day weekends and vacation slush fund shows respect to the company’s employees who, in turn, respect the company more. Which isn’t really rocket science — people work harder for places they care about and benefit from.
Countries like Germany go a step further by implementing 28-hour work weeks in some sectors with four to five percent yearly raises (to beat inflation). So what can we learn from this? We believe more leaders should encourage work life balance with their employees. Working non stop and a constant connection via technology is not healthy or beneficial.
We spoke to a CEO for a global tech company based in Barcelona, and he changed his views previously he would crack the whip out and expected 12 hour days. Until one day someone suggested doing cross fit at lunch, at first he wasn’t sure about the idea but he agreed they could go. He noticed everyone was coming back to the office more energised. On Fridays everyone would come in hungover because on Thursday evenings they had an open bar, he decided to change it that you can drink whenever you wanted to. Sounds strange, however, no-one came in hungover on Fridays anymore, suddenly the forbidden fruit was just an apple so the excitement of Thursday drinks was gone. He noticed no-one was drinking the beers in the office and since cross fit had been introduced at lunch everyone was on a health kick. As he goes on with his story he told us that he then decided to put a table tennis table in the office, and a masseuse once a week (we love him!)
He couldn’t believe how much the morale in the office increased as well as productivity, 12 hour days become 6. We love hearing these stories because it makes sense invest in your employees and they will invest in you. Remind them that you care about them, encourage them to pauze, and we have no doubt that you will see an increase in results. The environment you create is key. This is an area we are extremely passionate about, email us if you want to discuss improving your office environment firstname.lastname@example.org
Article from Zach Johnston for Uproxx, editing and added information from pauze.