“The nine to five” is a metonym we use all the time to represent the typical workday.
It's a widespread figure of speech in English-speaking countries, and the fact that we use it so often points to a deeper truth:
We've been strongly socialized into the idea of the 40 hour workweek.
Nine in the morning to five in the evening. Eight hours a day, Monday to Friday. This has been the standard way of organizing work shifts for quite some time now.
But is it really the best way of doing things?
When you're building your own business so you can ditch the desk job for good, you might find yourself sticking to the same kind of daily schedule structure. Start work in the morning, finish at night, work for eight hours each day.
But you don't have to do things this way, and there might even be a better way.
There's a growing body of evidence that shorter workdays have a ton of benefits that, in the end, make workers' labor more profitable.
While this is usually discussed in the context of corporate desk workers, it's some interesting food for thought for solopreneurs as well.
A recent article from Entrepreneur discusses a Swedish study that experimented with replacing the standard eight hour workday with just six hours instead.
The results were promising.
Still, we can project four main benefits to a shorter workday setup:
- Morale. You’ll be hard-pressed to find workers who don't like the idea of a shorter workday. Working fewer hours means having more energy, more personal time and a lot less stress. Happy workers are also productive workers, so the boost in morale will likely result in generating more creative ideas, staying more loyal to your company and ultimately getting more done in the span of a day (though the exact productivity benefits haven’t been empirically demonstrated as outweighing the costs).
- Health savings. Workers on shorter hours experience less chronic pain and less stress. These physical manifestations of higher morale and less strain end up having a net positive effect on employee health afflictions. They spend less time taking sick days and are less likely to develop chronic illnesses. In theory, this could result in hundreds to thousands of dollars saved per worker though, again, these numbers haven’t yet been crunched.
- Personal time. Personal time seems like it’s just another avenue to develop higher morale, but the extra personal time resulting carries multiple benefits for the individual and society as a whole. People with more personal time can spend more time with their families, have more time to exercise and prepare healthy meals rather than buy unhealthy fast food; they can also find time to work on personal projects. Ultimately, that means a healthier, happier, more connected working population — and one capable of more innovation and creativity.
- Task management. Managing work is psychologically demanding, but with shorter working hours, people have fewer choices to make throughout the day, thereby decreasing decision fatigue. Employees can also rigorously schedule and follow through on their work, rather than letting simple tasks eat up the extended hours of the day.
When you're working for yourself, you have the power to decide your own schedule. By working shorter days, you may be able to avoid fatigue and burnout, meaning you're more productive during the times that you are working.
You can read more about the Swedish six day workweek experiment over at Entrepreneur.
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