Working smart, not hard – it’s a maxim that gets bandied about all the time, but as a small business owner, are you really living that? While you probably have some productivity tricks you like to use, what about your staff? Are you forcing them to come to an office every day and sit through the 9-5 grind, irrespective of the workload they’ve got or the job they need to do? In today’s marketplace, both the 9-5 workday and the office itself can be insane barriers to productivity.
Offices get stale
All the way back in the 1960s, the science writer Arthur C. Clarke predicted that that our Macbooks, our Dells, our HPs would enable us to work anywhere we liked.
“[Computers will] enrich our society. Any businessman or executive could live almost anywhere on earth and still do his business through [a computer]. And this is a wonderful thing: it means you won’t have to be stuck in cities; you can live out in the country or wherever it be.”
But for whatever reason, the idea of clocking in and out of an office Monday to Friday has persisted.
Let’s face it: the vast majority of us can perform our jobs from home or on-the-go. So why should staff come in every day when they can do the same level of work – or more – from home?
And before you turn around and say you don’t trust them to do the work in a relaxed environment, why did you hire them in the first place?
Flex-time empowers staff
The 9-5 workday has its roots in the industrial revolution and, frankly, it’s outdated. With email, the internet and our computers, not only is the 9-5 prohibitively long, it also doesn’t suit everyone.
So why not let your staff use flex-time, and work from home while they’re at it? They’re empowered to log on and off when they want throughout the week provided they get work done. It means they’re taking ownership of their time and grading themselves on the work they’ve achieved, as opposed to the hours they’ve spent in the office.
You could even consider a shorter workweek entirely
A few years ago, a Toyota plant in Sweden was leaving a trail of frustrated customers in its wake as it failed to get cars repaired in time. Naturally, fingers were pointed at the staff for moving too slowly, and yes, perhaps they were guilty of idling around the coffee machine or watching the clock a little longer than necessary. But that’s because a normal workday encourages idle behavior at every turn.
All the same, CEO Martin Banck would have been forgiven for punishing his staff and slapping punitive measures in place. Instead, he took the unprecedented step of shortening the workday by 2 whole hours – a whole 10 hours a week – while keeping salaries the same.
What happened was amazing. The staff were in such a good mood they came in to the plant each and every day and got a lot more done in a shorter space of time. Suddenly the productivity hurdles were overcome and the problem was solved.
As Banck remarked in a YouTube video on the subject, “You might as well send your people home after 6 hours. They get nothing more done after that.”
Our working hours are tied to our happiness
Continuing with the Scandinavian theme, Sweden, Norway and Denmark regularly rank as some of the happiest countries in the world. Not only have they got some of the shortest working weeks in the world, they’re economic powerhouses despite the lack of office time. Happy staff equal productive workers.
“It is a strong motivational factor to be able to go home earlier,” says Linus Feldt, a Stockholm app developer. “You still want to do a good job and be productive during six hours, so I think you focus more and are more efficient.”
The minute you free yourself from an office-bound mindset, you start to realize that there are opportunities to flexible working. You don’t need to hire staff within a small radius of your office, for one, and can start to take advantage of all the talented people who work remotely for a living.
In the end, working smart means focusing on the end product as opposed to having people kill time just because it’s the done thing. We all walk around with phones and computers in our back pockets, which give us everything an office can and more, so why not make those things count?