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The Rise and Fall of the 40-Hour Workweek

The conventional 40-hour workweek has already been rapidly replaced by several new alternatives. Unfortunately, those who aren't adapting to these unique options could be left using outdated practices. Find out how the traditional 9-5 is beginning to evolve.

The past year has changed the way all of us work. Whether you are still working from home or have returned to the office, your ideas about work-life balance have probably shifted during the last year. For many of us, the concept of the 40-hour workweek is something that we are trying to move away from. As a result, employers and employees are looking for new ways to make their job fit around their lifestyles.

The History of the 40-Hour Work Week

The 40-hour workweek dates back to the early 1900s when it was used as a way to attract workers who were previously used to working 12 or 16 hour days. Of course, at that time, this was an appealing concept that Henry Ford came up with, and it’s been considered the norm in most companies until the past decade. However, many companies and individuals are beginning to question whether this concept is one that’s outdated and if it still has a place in our modern lives.

Striving for Work-Life Balance

The past year has made us all consider our current way of living, and many of us have realized that more work-life balance is needed. The 40-hour workweek isn’t consistent with the expectations of the younger generations and their lifestyle. Young professionals have made it clear that work shouldn’t be their number one priority in life and that they’d instead work to live than live to work. With more businesses using team-based work and project models, the need for this set working structure is only continuing to decrease. On top of that, individuals working effectively from remote locations don’t necessarily need to log in at 9 am each day to start work.

Focusing on Results

For companies considering getting rid of the 40-hour workweek, their employees would need to be judged on results, not time in the future. In fact, many European companies have already reduced their standard working hours. Results have proved that employees accomplish just as much in a six-hour day as they would in an eight or nine-hour day. However, tracking this productivity will need to be considered to ensure it’s not detrimental to the employees.

We need to shift from keeping employees “busy” to focus on work that brings value to our businesses. Employees who are currently working within management are already judged on results as opposed to time, so it’s simply a case of filtering this down to lower-level employees. With the increase of the digital workforce, we have the opportunity to reimagine the way we are currently working and build a culture that encourages trust and purpose within their organization.

Alternatives to the 40-hour workweek

1. Flextime

Flextime allows employees to select when they begin and end their workday. However, most companies require that all employees are present when meetings and other company activities take place.

2. Compressed Work Week

A compressed workweek can be as simple as working four ten-hour shifts per week rather than five eight-hour shifts. Compressed workweeks have the added benefit of saving the employee money by reducing the cost of transportation due to the one less day a week that is worked.

3. A 9/80 Schedule

Similar to a compressed workweek, a 9/80 work schedule allows the employee to work 80 hours over two weeks. For example, the employee may work eight nine-hour days and one eight-hour day in a two-week period. This type of schedule allows the employee to gain an entire 80-hour pay period without working the standard 40-hour workweek.

4. Rotating Schedule

A rotating schedule alternates days worked and days off each week. For example, an employee may work three twelve-hour shifts one week and four twelve-hour shifts the following week. Another example of a rotating schedule is to work eight-hour shifts that alternate days worked each week.

5. Telework

Telework, also known as telecommuting, is another alternative to the traditional 40-hour workweek. Telework allows the employee to work one to five days a week from home, a satellite office, or a regional telework center.

Over the next few years, we can expect to see considerable changes to how many of the world’s top companies operate. The 40-hour workweek is undoubtedly starting to make its way out. We are excited to witness the benefits this will offer both employees and businesses moving forward.

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