Donna's Blog

5 hour workday? You’re already doing it.

I seem to have attracted lots of articles recently into my various social media feeds about the notion of 30 hour work weeks, or 5 hour work days (or even 4 hour work weeks!).  And they say this is the future of work.
However, I reckon it’s the NOW of work, but we aren’t reaping the benefits of it.  If you think about how productive you are on a given day, it’s likely to be about half the time you spend there, ie if you are on an 8 or 10 hour work day, then it’s likely you are productive for only 4-5 hours of that time.  At best.
Wondering how I arrive at that figure?  Take a look at your last week and calculate the amount of time you spent:


  • In unproductive meetings
  • Being interrupted
  • Travelling or commuting to and from work, and between meetings
  • Managing email overload


The neuroscience of productivity tells us that the first two hours of our day should be protected as it’s the time when we are least susceptible to decision fatigue.  And most of us spend that time in a commute.  Imagine being able to use that brain power for more productive pursuits rather than in the car or on public transport.
What would happen if you decided to get serious about productivity and reduce the various time wasters.  What if you:


  • Reduced interruptions by using the Sprint or Pomodoro methods? (short bursts of productive work)
  • Practiced extreme selectiveness about meetings?  Only go to those where you will give or get value, not just be a spectator.
  • Automated your email inbox so that only important messages were in your inbox and the rest were filed? Have a look at Dermott Crowley’s great book Smart Work and consider the zero inbox strategy.
  • Worked from home for the first 2 hours on important work, and then travelled to the office during the non-peak?

So, whether you mean to or not, you are likely only doing productive work for about 5 hours a day and that’s if you are SUPER productive.  Many of us are likely to do 2 or 3 hours of productive work.  I wonder what it would take for your organisation to shift to a 5-hour work day allowing employees to work say, from 9am to 2pm, pay them the same and focus on productivity rather than hours.


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