Goodbye, 9-hour workday. It’s time for us to part ways. It’s not you; it’s me. This just isn’t working out anymore and it’s time for you to move on. Permanently.
If the 9-hour workday were a person, that is what I would say to put an end to our relationship.
Ah, if only it were that easy.
I’m on a mission, one that I am intensely passionate about. Like a newly converted religious fanatic, I’m obsessed and won’t let up until others see the light, too.
My mission is this:
Change the mindset of the Israeli business world from a lengthy 9 hours to a more tolerable 7 or 8.
By no means am I suggesting that employees slack off or take the easy road in their careers. What I am suggesting is a shift towards a happy pairing of productivity and a more satisfying life. Work/life balance isn’t a far-fetched dream; I believe that it can be done.
Our generation is seeing skyrocketing levels of technological developments, medical breakthroughs and scientific discoveries. The potential for new businesses and the steady stream of mobile apps are at an all-time high. And yet, the levels of stress being enjoyed by businessmen and women is at an equally high number. Mental healthcare professionals report an increasing number of people seeking treatment for job-related stress.
Job-related stress isn’t exactly new. Our parents experienced it, and their parents before them. Does that mean that we should continue practicing an outdated business culture just because it’s always been that way? Like sitting in an old chair that’s been worn down to a hard surface (Frasier’s father comes to mind), we do not have to settle into something archaic and uncomfortable simply because it’s there.
With all the change society has experienced over the last few decades, why have we not changed an unnecessarily long work day? Should we not stop doing business like it’s 1960?
It’s time to give the old broad a face lift.
MAGIC NUMBER 9
Studies show that humans are incapable of remaining focused and productive for lengthy periods of time in the same environment. Simply put, most people cannot keep their head in the game for 9 hours a day. Even taking into consideration coffee breaks, smoking breaks, lunch hours, etc., the generally accepted 9 is exceedingly high, and without sufficient purpose.
There will always be those who can accomplish in 3 hours what others need 7 hours to complete. I’m not talking about the exceptions, but the average employee.
SPEAKING OF EXCEPTIONS…
I’ve heard it said countless times that “10+ hours a day in hi-tech is normal.” I kind of get it, because this field is a crazy fast world where tech happens at close-to lightning speeds. Today’s product launch is yesterday’s news, and already being replaced with something smarter and pocket-sized by the time the launch party cleanup crew arrives.
Remember that there are usually people behind technology (You got me, Robotics! I didn’t mean you.). The 22-year old who is Team Lead on Project A can work 11 hour days without blinking an eye and is still the life of the party, but will likely one day get married, have children, want to see his family and friends and have a life. Sure, today he doesn’t care, but it won’t always be this way. One could argue that when that happens, he’ll be replaced by someone younger and faster and you wouldn’t be wrong in that assumption. The cycle will continue. But why does it have to?
What a majority of employers fail to realize is that they’re actually harming their business by keeping the magic 9 in force. When an employee has an above-average amount of stress, displays signs of fatigue or can’t seem to focus on his/her tasks, this harms the company and whatever goals are trying to be accomplished.
Burnout is inevitable, yet so avoidable.
A FEW REAL LIFE EXAMPLES
“Y” is a highly valued member of his team, producing high quality work, liked by colleagues and senior managers, brings great ideas to the table, etc. Y has a wife and 2 kids. His work day is from 09:00 – 18:00. If he leaves the office exactly at 18:00 and doesn’t hit too much traffic, Y will arrive home around 19:00. If someone stops to chat with him on the way out or he has to finish a time-sensitive project, he will get home at 19:30 or later. By that time, his kids are asleep and his wife is exhausted from her equally long day.
Y gets stuck in rush-hour traffic one morning and arrives to work at 09:15. Another day, he has to leave 1 hour early to attend his daughter’s school play. Despite being an integral part of his company’s team and doing excellent work, his paycheck gets docked for that 1 hour and 15 minutes of “missed” time. Y is a busy guy and does not have a lot of extra time to make it up. Y handled his work responsibilities as normal and the company did not suffer losses due to Y’s missed time.
Why is his company taking away his heard-earned money for 1.25 missed hours? Y certainly doesn’t get paid any extra money when he has to stay late or come in early for urgent business needs.
“M” is a woman with 4 kids whose husband also works full-time. She manages a team of 8, both locally and remotely. M works hard to accomplish her goals of increasing the company’s revenue and promoting its social media presence and brand, while remaining active in her family’s life, spending time with friends, attending weekly exercise classes and doing some small volunteer work.
M’s work day is from 08:00 – 17:00 Sun. through Thurs. In order to arrive home for dinner and spend time with her family (see, it isn’t only Sheryl Sandberg), M informed her company at the beginning of her career there that she would need to leave 15 minutes early every day to take the 17:00 train home. Her company was okay with this arrangement. What she didn’t know is that her company would deduct this time from her paycheck, earning her significantly less every month.
M was an hour and a half late to work one day because of a חפץ חשוד (suspicious object) on the highway she takes to her office. M was informed by the firm’s HR manager that she would have to make up the missed time, use it as a vacation day or have the pay deducted from her salary. As a full-time working mother of 4, she doesn’t have any spare time. Coming in to work on a Friday makes it difficult for M to run errands that she saves for Friday since her work week does not allow time to handle these things.
In these examples, what this tells both employees is that THEIR WORK IS LESS IMPORTANT THAN BEING PHYSICALLY PRESENT IN THE OFFICE.
A CHANGE WILL DO YOU GOOD
What I’m proposing is a more human and realistic approach. There is so much to gain and nothing to lose.
1. Ditch the Clock
Clocking in and out was okay 50 years ago in blue collar factories, but it has no place in the modern business world. Either a company brings on intelligent people who don’t need babysitters, or it needs better recruiting and hiring managers.
2. Stop Counting Hours and Docking Salaries
Companies must focus on quality, not quantity.
Some government ministries that fund projects require reporting on employee hours for tracking purposes. While this need for reporting is understandable, it’s also excessive. A summary of general employee hours should be sufficient. Israel has enough tech experts that can probably figure out a better way of tracking working hours instead of making employees feel spied on and stressed about meeting their hours.
3. Sick Notes Are For Children
If I call in sick, then it’s legitimate. I’m an adult; I should not have to get a note from my doctor. Besides, by the time I do that, I’ve probably already recovered. Some קופות חולים have online options for messaging doctors, but some don’t. I would have to spend extra time just to make an appointment.
Companies need to treat their staff like the smart adults they hired.
4. Less Hours, Greater Efficiency
A 7-hour workday is usually enough for most businesses to achieve their goals. This is the core time of human productivity. I’m not suggesting a European kind of ½ day or 5 hour solution, but merely a little less than what has become a stressful norm. Many who change from a 9-hour day to this shorter workday report no change in their work output, but often an increase.
A shorter work day will alleviate job stress, allow employees more time with family or friends, free time in their personal lives, thereby increasing career satisfaction and job performance.
It’s time to kiss the 9-hour workday goodbye.