The 8-hour workday was an innovative idea at its start. Back in the boom of the Industrial Revolution, workers could be expected to put in 10-16 hours a day (and that was a minimum). Soon, Henry Ford came along with his own theories about the American workplace, arriving at a theory to shorten the workday to eight hours a day and 40 hours a week. This completely changed the game during the early 1900s, giving workers more time for leisure and time spent outside the office. The problem now is, this is the last time we've really innovated on this construct.
This time around, entrepreneurs are taking a new look at the idea of what should constitute a workweek, and what it really means to be productive. San Diego entrepreneur Stephan Aarstol and his Inc. 500-ranked company Tower Paddle Boards decided to change their idea of work hours last fall, moving from an eight-hour day to a five-hour day.
Perks in the workplace have become commonplace in the world of startups—group yoga, a plethora of free snacks and unlimited vacation time. Since the release of Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Work Week, more and more entrepreneurs have questioned the idea of how long the average person works, can work or should work in a given day. Still, new ideas aren’t guarantees of more efficient or better solutions. Stephan realized this going into his experiment. He wasn't about to let the idea itself sway him one way or another. He went back to the numbers to decide feasibility.
Entrepreneurs experiment and tweak and tinker. They iterate and modernize. When something is stale or broken, they look to change it. But all of these intuitions to change must be backed up by rationale. Initiating the 5-hour workday was no different. Stephan made it very clear when he brought it up to his team and employees.
"I told them right off the bat, if this doesn't work we're going back to the previous system," Aarstol said. "So don't be surprised."
In today’s world, productivity and work are no longer measured in number of hours put in at a desk or even in the office for that matter. This antiquated idea of efficiency is being replaced by spurts of production. The human mind is capable of far more tasks and multitasking, allowing us to accomplish more in a shorter amount of time. The reality of work is being disconnected from the concepts of hours and minutes and reexamined with an eye for spurts and bursts. No human being is productive for eight hours straight. In the average work day, there are any number of distractions and breaks used and created to break up the day. So what if you took these breaks out? No more lunch. No more afternoon lulls. You just worked to you max for a few hours of the day and used the rest of the time as a combination of all your breaks already instituted into your day—but now they’re your own time, your own space to do with what you’d like. This is the reimagining of work. This is the revitalization of productivity.
For further fun, check out this interesting article about Henry Ford and why we have a 40-hour workweek.