Some might balk at the notion of working only 25 hours per week. Is that enough time to get everything done? 

Studies and trial runs say yes.

The reality is that our usual eight-hour workdays are often inefficient, stressful, and filled with countless interruptions that render only 60% of our workdays as productive. A five hour workday that gets everyone out of the office by 1 p.m. could be the answer to not only improving employee satisfaction but overall productivity

The problem with counting hours

The “cult of overwork” is very real. Long hours and overtime are often seen as measures of success in our society. Some see it as a status symbol or a lifestyle choice. The pandemic hasn’t helped either, as work hours have only increased in the past year. 

The result isn’t better work or happier customers — it’s chronic, recurring burnout that’s now classified by the World Health Organization as an “occupational phenomenon.” Burnout reduces employee satisfaction, productivity, and quality of work; stifles creativity; and increases turnover. It’s one of the biggest issues in the modern workforce, with over half of all employees now feeling its effects. 

Furthermore, although all those hours may seem necessary to get the week’s work done, the reality is that they aren’t. Employees today are overwhelmed with countless interruptions that render much of the eight-hour workday unproductive. For example, the average employee receives over 300 business emails per week on average and checks their email over 30 times per hour. The average employee will also spend 31 hours per month in unproductive meetings, with nearly 50% of workers citing meetings as the #1 time-waster in the office. 

Even disregarding those inefficiencies and interruptions in workflow, a whopping 89% of employees waste time on the clock on non-work activities. Considering that it takes over 20 minutes on average to regain focus after losing it, these distractions and interruptions result in the standard eight-hour workday being far less productive than it may seem.

The benefits of counting quality

So what’s to be done? Could a 5 hour workday really get more work done when eight hours sometimes isn’t enough? Let’s set out the case for a five hour working day.

According to trials, five-hour workdays have the potential to not only enhance the quality and volume of work completed, but greatly improve employee productivity and happiness. Employees would come into work for a hyper-focused, five-hour work session with uninterrupted flow. Hour-long meetings were cut to efficient 15-minute sessions, employees could remain focused for the entirety of the workday, and problems with burnout were alleviated. Companies started to consider which activities truly contributed value, rather than working off metrics counting hours, number of calls, and meetings. 

Considering most employees are only productive for three hours per day, it’s not hard to see why an uninterrupted, hyper-focused 5 hour workday might seem like a great idea. 

The right way to integrate a shorter workday

Many companies and employees that adopted the five hour workday model found it hard to return to older work models. However, there are certain challenges and issues that they’ve had to face while integrating this alternative style of work. 

One of the biggest challenges is culture shock. Many employees value unstructured, loose time throughout the day to chat and interact with their fellow coworkers, grab lunch or coffee, or build camaraderie through non-work interactions. The five hour workday model relies on a heavily focused work culture with minimal distractions, making it a difficult transition for employees more used to unstructured time throughout the workday. However, companies found ways to work around this by sponsoring after-work parties and meals, replacing the more spontaneous office interactions with dedicated, off-the-clock time to mingle. 

Another was the necessity for more streamlined and efficient processes. Companies running trials had to rework communication processes and distribute responsibilities more effectively to make the most out of their five hours. They minimized their time spent on emails, shortened meeting times, set clear schedules and agendas, and turned off most notifications. By doing so, they saw great results — and started counting the quality of their work rather than the volume of hours spent at a desk. 

Are you also looking to do the best work of your life more efficiently and productively? Start a free Wrike trial today.