The Five Hour Work Day

I was recently inspired by an article I read in Inc Magazine about CEO Stephan Aarstol of Tower Paddle Boards. Aarstol moved his company, backed by Shark Tank’s Mark Cuban, to a five hour workday while, at the same time, becoming an Inc 500 Company along the way.

For me, this move made sense right away. The five hour day concept was a good fit for myself, our company, our company culture, our current and future employees, our stakeholders and perhaps many others we can inspire similar to what Aarstol has done for me. So, with caution, and buy in from our team and I decided to embark on this experiment. We’re now 1 month in on our five hour workday’ experiment for 90 days.

For the last few years I had been looking for a way to create some extra time for myself and my family.  Running a business and a family of five didn’t leave me with a whole lot of space.  Our business still needs my full attention, as we aspire to grow exponentially over the next few years.  One day I’d very much like to step out of the way and let others take over.  When that happens I want to be deliberate about what’s next. However, there will be no stepping out of the way until we hit or are well on our way to meeting near term goals.

I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and work with Pernille Spiers Lopez from Good Life Designed as a mentor recently.  Pernille was CEO of Ikea and over her 30+ year career and has some really amazing things to share.  She encouraged me to get really clear on my mission and values through journaling. Ultimately it was through this process that the five hour work day concept began to make more sense.

WHAT’S YOUR BEST DAY AT THE OFFICE?

What’s your best day in the office? When are you the most focused and productive? When do you get the most done in shortest amount of time?  When are you the happiest?  For myself and many others, the best days at the office were usually half days. This usually involved leaving early on a Friday, going to a kids school event, leaving for a vacation or simply cutting out for a mental break.

I began to run the numbers and figured out our employees for years work maybe 5 or so hours in a typical hour workday.  If you’re actually honest about your own productivity, hours of your day can be wasted without realizing it: take a few coffee breaks, water cooler chit chat, one hour lunch, post lunch conversations followed by lunch coma, a few personal calls, check texts, social media accounts and suddenly you’re looking at three hours or so wasted.

THE 8 HOUR WORK DAY WAS INVENTED IN THE INDUSTRIAL AGE – 1914 – WTF?

I was astounded to learn the 40 hour work week was created by Ford in 1914 to boost productivity in the industrial age.  In short, Americans used to work 6-7 days 12-16 hours.  It’s what our country needed at the time.  It wasn’t until much later that Ford actually implemented the 8 hour work day and changed the standards.  According to the article The Origin of the 8 Hour Work Day and Why We Should Rethink It

“One of the first businesses to implement this was the Ford Motor Company, in 1914, which not only cut the standard work day to eight hours, but also doubled their worker’s pay in the process.  To the shock of many industries, this resulted in Ford’s productivity off of these same workers, but with fewer hours, actually increasing significantly and Ford’s profit margins doubled within two years.  This encouraged other companies to adopt the shorter, eight hour work day as a standard for their employees.”

So there we have it. The reason we work 8 hours a day, isn’t scientific or much thought out. It’s purely a century old norm for running factories most efficiently.  WTF indeed!

SPARKING INNOVATION AND CREATIVITY

One of my favorite Peter Drucker quotes is “a business only has 2 functions; innovation and marketing – all the rest are costs.”  Right now, that’s all we have time for as we have no choice but to work on our highest and most productive priorities.

We have evolved beyond the norms of the industrial revolution. In the Information Age, we very much need their innovation, ideas and creativity that comes to them 24/7 and usually that kind of thinking does not come in the office. The only way to harness that creativity is to give our workers their time back. In return, we get their creativity when they settle in at the office.

ADDING MASSIVE VALUE

One of the things we’ve always been committed to is adding ‘Massive Value’ to our employees, partners and customers so they never want to leave.  When I heard about the five hour experiment it became a quick and easy decision as it fit right into ALL of our values as a company.

The focus on employee well being over the bottom line will drive the bottom line. Trying to squeeze every effort and drop of sweat out of someone is not the business we want to be.   I want balanced people and balanced lives so they can bring more innovation, energy and creativity for to the business than any 40+ hour week ever could.

FINDING OUR BLUE OCEAN

In the book, Blue Ocean Strategy it outlines companies that have succeeded by creating ″blue oceans″ of uncontested market space. Blue Ocean Strategy asserts these strategic moves create a leap in value for the company, its buyers, and its employees while unlocking new demand and making the competition irrelevant.

I know this move creates a massive leap in value for our employees.  We can’t compete and have no desire to compete head to head with large corporations or anyone for that matter in what Blue Ocean Strategy calls “Red Oceans”. The ‘Red Oceans’ are vast in our industry – where big corporations and small are vying for the same employees and customers.

However, in my view our most important customer is our employees.  Happy employees take great care of our customers. The five hour workday creates an immediate uncontested market space for employees who want work life balance, who are crazy productive and know they can easily get their work done in five hours. Evenmoreso, for parents that have given up their career or put on hold to raise kids, it means the opportunity to work again in a setting that supports their lifestyle

THE NUMBERS

We pay everyone the same as when we worked a standard eight hour day.  Cutting our workday to five hours effectively doubled our team’s hourly wage.

Our clear expectations as a business is productivity for our employees remains the same in the given time and if not figure out a way to do it.  8AM-1PM or five hours is our baseline.  There will  be plenty of times we need to work more in a day, and that is also understood. As a business, we must always be ready to go the extra mile for our customers – we will stay and be ready for our customers any time of day.

So far, our productivity KPI’s are up 20%+ over same period last year.  Our employees are the happiest I’ve seen them and so am I.  I’m betting quite a bit on this concept and confident it’s the right move for us.

Oh yes, we’re hiring.

 
Written by Dave Rhoads, CEO Blue Street Capital.

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