My piece explaining why “Shorter Hours Make Stronger Businesses” is out in the Wall Street Journal.
In the past year, a few companies have received attention for reducing working hours, but a movement has been building for years. In Sweden, mechanics at the Toyota Gothenburg service center have worked 6-hour shifts and 30-hour weeks since 2003. AE Harris, a Birmingham, U.K. steelmaker, began a 36-hour, four-day week in 2006. Australian software company Icelab moved to 32-hour, four-day weeks two years later. Korean e-commerce giant Woowa Brothers, in an industry notorious for long workweeks, has gradually shrunk to 35 hours.
Obviously, employees benefit when companies shorten working hours. But it turns out that companies can benefit, too. Making the change spurs staffs to collaborate more effectively, prioritize more ruthlessly and develop deep respect for one another’s time. Leaders gain time to scan the horizon, incubate new ideas and recover from their weekly pressures.
Of course, this doesn’t work everywhere. Some companies find it too disruptive. Financial setbacks can push companies to forego experimenting and return to traditional schedules. Industries that depend on billing clients by the hour may never make the jump.
But I’ve studied more than a hundred companies in different countries and sectors that have shortened their days or weeks without sacrificing productivity or profitability—and often improving both. If done right, shorter hours can help companies flourish.
This is one of those short pieces that we ended up spending a lot of time on, but it was well worth it.