If you’ve been in the workforce for 20+ years, you probably grew up thinking working longer hours meant you were more productive, or helped you advance your career. I spent many years arriving at and leaving an office in darkness.
Microsoft has put a bit of data behind the fact longer hours do not equate to higher productivity (or happiness).
In case you missed the buzz, Microsoft “introduced a program this summer in Japan called the “Work Life Choice Challenge,” which shut down its offices every Friday in August and gave all employees an extra day off each week.
The results were promising: While the amount of time spent at work was cut dramatically, productivity – measured by sales per employee – went up by almost 40% compared to the same period the previous year”.
Microsoft also encouraged shorter meetings and less time spent on email. YES!
- Employees need “diversified work styles” (number of days/week, remote work, flexible schedules, etc.)
- Microsoft’s program was effective in identifying those diverse work styles
- The program motivated people to work more efficiently
- There were challenges depending on the department employees worked in
- Not all managers/employees understand how to work with diverse work styles
- Some felt it was an inconvenience to customers and those employees in customer support roles
Culturally, Japan has struggled with overworking people – and even have a term for it: Karoshi, which means death by overwork from stress-induced illnesses or severe depression.
The U.S. doesn’t quite have that extreme culture; however, we are routinely made fun of by our European peers who know how to “holiday” much better than we do!
SHRM put out a report in June saying, “15% of more than 2,700 American companies surveyed now offer a four-day work week option to employees, up from 12% in 2017”. While that’s progress, I’m guessing most of us won’t be able to provide that option as a common practice.
But what if we could do more to promote “work style personalization” as a talent strategy?
I believe work style personalization will soon be the price of admission for companies looking to attract and retain top talent and scarce skills.
Think of it as the new stock options/sign-on/perk-of-the-month – but with real staying power and results. It’s being able to truly personalize how, when and where you work in addition to what total rewards are most important to you. Need to retain older workers? Need to attract diversity? Want a more agile workforce? Boom! It’s possible with personalization.
I know I’d trade out company paid life, dental, vision insurance, tenure awards, LTD, STD, EAPs, paid parking, free snacks, outplacement services, etc. for a four-day work week!
Oh, and the HR metrics are easy – are you equivalently or more productive?
Personalization is a talent strategy we need to explore. It makes a ton more sense than the extremes of burning people out or the hot new trend of dopamine fasting <insert massive eye roll>!