Sleep Month: How is your Sleep?

Sleep is the most important factor that underpins everything, if you are not sleeping you are sacrificing your health, well-being, longevity and performance (both work and sporting).

Being good at sleep is not like being good at sport or business, you don’t win any awards for being a great sleeper! Sleep is something that is traditionally private, until it being bad at it begins to seep into other areas of your life, such as when your health begins to decline or your focus starts wavering while at work.

Some will use lack of sleep as a badge of honor, stating that they can train, work, and be more productive with all the spare time gained from not sleeping. We all know these people that claim the amount of hours of sleep that they don’t have time for and that they function optimally with minimal sleep. In fact there is even a  “sleepless elite,” like Barack Obama, Dean Karnazes, Martha Stewart, and Marissa Mayer. Who claim to sleep only four or five hours a night. However, I would argue 99.99 percent of the time, they are lying to themselves. They are instead functioning at a suboptimal level and the cost of this is their health. Sure there is variance in optimal amount of sleep needed from person to person, but it is by no means this drastic.

The average night’s sleep today equates to approximately 6.9 hrs whereas in 1910 the average was 9 hrs! That is a substantial decline in a short period of time and we are paying for it!

Close to home in Australia a study published in March this year calculated the financial and nonfinancial costs associated with inadequate sleep for the year of  2016–2017 (US dollars). “The estimated total financial cost of $17.88 billion represents 1.55% of Australian gross domestic product. The estimated nonfinancial cost of $27.33 billion represents 4.6% of the total Australian burden of disease for the year.”

Chernobyl

If you cast your mind back to the disaster at: Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, The gas leak at Bhopal, The Zeebrugge ferry accident, The Exxon Valdez oil spill. When you do a little research, you’ll find that these and many other major industrial disasters have been directly linked to sleep deprivation. Therefore, the financial cost associated with lack of sleep has great potential to be significantly higher.

With the ‘24/7’ society there is no ‘off’ switch and with the increasing night time use of TV, internet and mobile phones this means adequate amounts of uninterrupted sleep is becoming increasingly compromised. With this paradigm shift to 24/7 society, we have more shift workers who are required to service the needs of our society. I am sure everyone knows someone that works night shift. This roster exposes them to significant circadian disruption which is likely to add to the growing financial cost of sleep deprivation seen at the workplace. Quite a scary thing to think about when a lot of the shift workers are those that work in healthcare. To put this in perspective 100,000 deaths occur each year in US hospitals due to medical errors and sleep deprivation.

 

University student sleeping in lecture hall

Sleep loss is happening across the population spectrum from children, students to adults. We are all affected. The table below from a 2004 study in America highlights children of various age groups and clearly identifies their lack of sleep, with many not even achieving the desired number of sleep hours. A study done with Auckland University students in New Zealand showed that a large number (39.4%) of university students where suffering from significant sleep deprivation symptoms. What was interesting and shocking from this study was that students were presenting with clinically significant levels of depression (~17.3% of students) and anxiety (~19.7% of students).

Sleep across a 24hr period (2004 America Study): 

Age Group Suggested (hrs) Average sleep (hrs)
Infants 14-15 12.7
Toddlers 12-14 11.7
Preschool 11-13 10.4
School aged Children 10-11 9.5

(Note: All sleep times are averages.)

 

Summary 

Hopefully this has started to highlight to you the impact of sleep and its importance. As I mentioned at the beginning, sleep underpins everything and if you are lacking in that department you are functioning at a suboptimal level and accelerating the aging process.

Stay tuned for the rest of the month of August as we provide you with the tricks and tools to hack your sleep and get you back to performing at your best.

 

References:

Adams, R., Appleton, S., Taylor, A., & Antic, N. (2016). Report to the Sleep Health Foundation 2016 Sleep Health Survey of Australian Adults The Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health.

Aurora, R. N., Collop, N. A., Jacobowitz, O., Thomas, S. M., Quan, S. F., & Aronsky, A. J. (2015). Quality Measures for the Care of Adult Patients with, 11(3).

Ferrie, J. E., Kumari, M., Salo, P., Singh-manoux, A., & Kivima, M. (2018). Sleep epidemiology — a rapidly growing field, (October 2011), 1431–1437. https://doi.org/10.1093/ije/dyr203

Hillman, D., Mitchell, S., Streatfeild, J., Burns, C., Bruck, D., & Pezzullo, L. (2018). The economic cost of inadequate sleep, (July), 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsy083

Report, M. W. (2011). National Sleep Awareness Week Unhealthy Sleep-Related Behaviors, 60(8), 2005–2008.

Samaranayake, C. B., Arroll, B., & Fernando, A. T. (2014). THE NEW ZEALAND, 127(1399), 13–22.

Smaldone, A., Honig, J. C., & Byrne, M. W. (2007). Sleepless in America : Inadequate Sleep and Relationships to Health and Well-being of Our Nation ’ s Children, 119(February), 29–37. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2006-2089F

Create a Common Workplace Language: Taylored Wellness Vision Document

Get everybody on the same page! Develop a workplace language.

In our previous posts we discussed the current business landscape, reflecting on current, past and future trends. In this post we will provide you with our ‘Taylored’ structure that will aid in ensuring the success of your workplace wellness program.

Success Begins with a Plan

If your workplace is establishing its first wellness program or re-energising an existing program with a new strategy. Success begins with a plan! Before you begin making any change, take the time to establish a “Wellness Vision Document”. With so many moving parts in a business it is vital to have a document that you can regularly reflect on. This will allow you to recall ‘why the program was established’ and ‘what you are trying to achieve’. It also ensures deliverables and targets are met keeping everyone accountable while not losing the site of the vision. Basically the aim is to get everybody on the same page and develop a common workplace language!

Naturally your businesses will go through busy periods which makes it especially hard to maintain a program. However, it is during these periods  that it is most valuable to maintain and have a wellness program, as it will not only boost deep work and productivity but it will also keep your staff healthy and happy. A “Wellness Vision Document” will be your guiding force in difficult times like these, and will ensure success.

A common workplace language is one of the key determining factors when it comes to the success of a program. If staff are unsure of what is expected or don’t feel comfortable the program is set up for failure. This is where creating a common why and direction, that reflects the desires of the business is vital.

Taylored Wellness Vision Document Template:

Block out some uninterrupted time with those who are passionate about well-being and those who will be key within your business to implement a Workplace Wellness Program.

Who should be in your Wellness Team?

The purpose of this group is to select leaders that represent different areas of your business to ensure each departments are addressed. This team will act as leaders across all divisions of your businesses, ensuring everyone’s voice is heard.  Success of wellness programs has been linked to employee engagement in planning stages of a program because you get to the real source or root cause of issues instead of a perceived issues. The number of people in this group will depend on business size, keep in mind the bigger you go the more challenging it will become.

This group will be known as your Wellness Team, should meet regularly to reflect, ensuring everything is on track and to improve when required. As for any plan things will change, so view this document as a working document instead of a rigid document.

Part 1: Overview

  • Rate: Current Workplace Wellness (1-10):
  • Background: Why is a workplace wellness program important to our business?
  • Workplace WHY: A purpose, cause or belief that inspires your workplace
  • Workplace Wellness: What do we do well?
  • Workplace Wellness: What areas we you need to improve?

 

Part 2: 

  • What current business processes Inhibit health in the workplace?
  • What current business processes Enable health in the workplace?

 

Part 3:

  • Key stakeholder:                                                                                                                               Internal (within company):                                                                                                               External (contractors, partner companies etc)
  • Anticipated benefits: What effect will the program have on the workplace
  • Benchmark: What are great examples to model and measure up against?
  • Justification for resources: What is the ROI?
  • Criteria for success and measurement: What metrics would be essential to track progress?
  • Risk, challenges and constraints: Do any barriers exist, that would impact the success of this program?
  • Milestones: Short and Long term goals
  • Deliverable’s for stakeholders: What is expected from each key stakeholder?

 

Need someone to facilitate this process?

Enlist Taylored Health & Performance to help you design a full proof Wellness program.

Deep Work: Busy BUT Not Focused

Many people are busy, not many people are productive.

So, what separates productive people from their counterparts?

The productive people tend to be task oriented by nature, backed with the ability to structure their lives (work and social) in a way that facilitates their goals. They are well aware to be successful they must make sacrifices and be selfish. However, those who are truly successful (in my books) are those that achieve a balance between their ‘personal goal orientated sacrifices’ and the rest of their life.

Focus on tasks instead of time!

This will not only increase productivity but employee health, enjoyment and reduce stress levels, as they are now motivated to complete their workload. Instead of watching the clock and attempting to ‘wait out the clock’ for the sack of filling in time. This concept was discussed in one of our previous posts Time for a Change! Rethink the Work Day. Many leading business such as Netflix & Virgin now choose to focus on results over time. This will allow them to free up the rest of their day to do the things they love; including spending time with family, competing in sport, or going to the gym etc.

How is this Balance Achieved??

Quality over Quantity

Just like everything we prescribe at Taylored Health & Performance, we want to achieve the minimal dose for maximal impact! Forget perfection! The game of perfection is an endless game that just becomes progressively harder to achieve, often resulting in negative consequences. As humans we are not designed to be perfect, in fact we are far from it. But successful people know how to identify their weaknesses and strengths (physically and psychologically) and will use them to their advantage.

Work can be divided into two divisions:

Where do you spend the most of your time?

Deep Work: Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skills, and are hard to replicate.

Shallow work: Non-cognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create new value in the world and are easy to replicate.

Success comes from the ability to spend more time in deep work. Here are the steps to maximise your productivity according to the ‘Taylored Model’. You may not be able to start with big regular blocks dedicated for deep work and that is fine, in fact it could be helpful as you train this skill. Just lock in a couple of period of time a week and build from there.

 

Steps to Success:

  1. Energy peaks and troughs: Chrono Type
  2. Plan: Monthly, Weekly & Daily
  3. Disconnect
  4. Deep Work
  5. Don’t Multitask

  1. Energy peaks and troughs: Chrono Type

We all have peaks and troughs of energy, and when these period occur will be different for everyone. This is what we refer to as Chronotype, a behavioral manifestation of an underlying circadian rhythm of myriad physical processes. In other words there are individual differences in sleep timing and in preferences for a given time of day during a 24 hour period, some of us are night owls and others are early morning rises and the reasons for this characteristic is due to your chronotype.

We all know intrinsically when we function at our best, if not then I suggest taking some time to tune into your body. The ability to harness this energy will greatly improve your cognitive power and productivity allowing you to achieve a deeper state of work.

Example: Myself

A morning person by nature I am most productive first thing. To maximise this early window my day is organised around this key slot of time. I complete high cognitive work such as writing and researching first thing and I leave shallow tasks like bookings, emails, and other communications to later in the day.    

 

  1. Plan: Monthly, Weekly & Daily

The importance of a plan goes without saying, we all know about this step but so often neglect it. I am not saying we should set ridged plans, a plan should be a guiding force keeping us in line and on target towards our goals. Plans should be flexible and mobile because as projects develop and so do new opportunities that may involve changing from the set plan.

Without structure it becomes easy to become caught up in the shallow tasks that end up sucking up all your valuable mental energy. Planning should not take long, you just need to put time aside each day (2-5 min), month (10-20 min) and week (5-10 min). When you decide to do this planning will also depend on you chronotype.

Be as detailed and specific as possible! Once you have your tasks listed try ranking them according to their importance and difficulty. First identify the one task that would have the most profound impact, often the task you least want to do due to the cognitive load. If you have heard of the 80/20 rule this is the 20% that will make the biggest impact on 80% of your results. As you may have guessed this goes right at the top and is to be the first thing you complete in your key productivity window. From the remaining tasks identify the mindless shallow tasks and place them at bottom the list, these are either non important and regardless you want to outsource where possible. Richard Branson calculates task difficulty by asking ‘how long would it take a grad student to learn this task’. If you can identifying if the task is below your pay grade and your time then it is better completed elsewhere or later.

Example: Myself

Personally I like to establish a plan before the month/week/day. For example spending the last 2-5 min of work for the day planning my next day so that when I kickstart my day I have a structured plan setout and can dive straight into it. If I am running low on time I just I don’t write and exhaustive list I will just identify the 20% that will make the most significant impact.

 

  1. Disconnect

This next step is integral part of the process and is becoming more and more important by the day. With all the technology designed to promote productivity it has got to the point of overload where it now has an adverse effect on productivity as we are continually interrupted. Remove yourself from the distraction and identity windows of time where you can block out time, ideally 2-4 hrs where you can disconnect and focus. Bring the benefits of a writing retreat to your office, turn your phone off or onto airplane mode, turn any other notifications off eg. emails, and focus on key tasks at hand and nothing else!.

This does not just include technology, remove yourself from all temptation, including people. Either remove yourself completely to escape the inventable interruptions and find a quite isolated space free of distractions or inform those who may interrupt that you are in a deep work block and not to be interrupted unless the need is of vital importance (highlight what is vital, everyone’s 

definition is different!). Set the deep work context in your workplace and encourage others to follow suit and watch productivity saw.

Example: Myself

I set my phone on Airplane mode the night before and do not turn airplane mode off until my block is completed so that I have no temptation. It was difficult at first but now is habit. I also used to be distracted by the need for breakfast but now that I practice intermittent fasting (14-18hr fasted blocks) I don’t normally eat to around mid day allowing myself to really capitalise on this block. This is a conversation I will cover in future posts.

 

  1. Deep Work

You are now ready to train the ability to achieve a deep state of work. I say train because at first it will be difficult for most as we are not used to uninterrupted time. Just like anything this is a skill that needs to be practiced.

 

  1. Don’t Multitask

Finally once in these windows of deep work fight the temptation to multi-task it will cost in time, but more importantly, it comes at a very high cognitive expense. It saps your limited focus and mental power making you less productive.

 

Summary

If you are like me once you begin to implement these key productivity blocks you will never look back! Realising that you are significantly more productive than your once extended work day in a now compressed time window (less than 2-4 hrs, half of a standard work day) freeing you up to do the other things you love!

Workplace Wellness: 3 Neglected Factors

Integrated Approach To Workplace Wellness

In our last post we discussed a number of case studies of successful businesses and their unique strategies to combat the ever changing workplace environment. So to build from the previous article we will now look into 3 key factors that can greatly impact the way employees perform. These factors have not been previously discussed and appear to be neglected by many workplaces.

The Health and Safety Workplace Act (HSWA) has changed the way we view health and safety in the workplace in New Zealand. It is not just about compliance; it’s about getting people home, healthy and safe. With this change in legislation we have seen a surge in the Workplace Wellness programmes, all of which emphasize physical exercise and nutrition, something that we can not criticise. However, there is a problem that is not getting addressed. This issue is how do we get businesses to actively engage in the wellness programme and not passively implement one so that they look good on paper. The proactive businesses will be those that are truly passionate about their employees health and put this as the focus for their wellness program. In doing so they will see great benefits in workplace culture, productivity, performance and financially.

So the next question would be; how do we get businesses to engage with employee health and actively buy into their wellness program. We will discuss 3 factors that are nothing new but are easily neglected as they can be challenging to monitor and make positive change. Regardless, these 3 factors are a vital part of the ‘big-picture’ that need to be addressed, especially if you want to achieve profound positive change in your workplace.

Commuter stress

We all accept commuting is wasted time and is extremely frustrating. There is no surprise that research has shown that it can be harmful to our well being and job satisfaction. A recent study in the UK concluded (26,000 employees in England over a five-year period), an additional 20 minutes of commuting per day has the same negative effect on job satisfaction as receiving a 19% pay cut. In contrast a study done in the  US stated that less commuting time was not a perceived benefit and if given the choice 84% of people would take job 1, with a salary of $67,000 a year and a commuting time of 50 minutes compared to job 2, with a salary of $64,000 and a commuting time of 20 minutes. The researchers noted “Their responses simply reflected an inability to fully appreciate the psychological, emotional, and physical costs of longer travel times.”

It is clear regardless of whether it is perceived or not, the time we spend commuting to work places a significant amount of stress on an individual and this will greatly affect job satisfaction in the long term.

Strategy: Remote working

With this pivotal shift in the way we interact, businesses need to breakout from the old methods and and utilise technology to their advantage and future proof their businesses by growing with the times. With the development of technology we are now a touch of a button away from anyone in the world. In a previous blog post (5 unique Actionable Strategies to Increased ROI) we discussed remote working as one of our top 5 strategies to increasing your return on Investment. This was continued on our post Time for a Change! Rethink the Work Day where we presented a number of case studies that discuss various remote working strategies used by current multi-billion dollar  business. Good examples being Netflix and Virgin who don’t track work hours, instead focus on results. Thus, their employees time in the office is irrelevant and they can take time off when the please, as long as work is still being done.

The majority of business need to re-think their structure, there is no longer a need for big offices that produce excessive unneeded overheads that slow the growth of your business. This is not to say offices are not important, they are! Especially, when it comes to inter-employee collaboration.  We are merely suggesting that you think with the future in mind and put your business in a position where you are mobile and able to pivot and grow at a moments notice.

 

Sleep

Sleep is often the first thing to get sacrificed. Sadly it has become a badge of honour to state you get minimal sleep because you work such long hours. This to me says you are unequipped to effectively delegate, schedule work, work efficiently and productively achieve great focus (aka deep work).

“My business does not have resources, therefore my role is extremely diverse and time consuming”. This is the common response or complaint that we hear. Now I understand and relate to this more than anyone. As a founder of a small business starting from nothing, resources are everything! Time being your most valuable resource! You can’t do any work sleeping therefore makes sense for sleep to get sacrificed right?

No! Sleep is the last thing you should ever sacrifice. Sleep is the most powerful factor underpinning your success and health!! Sleep is where your body recovers and stores memories from the previous day. Skipping this process will just throw you down a vicious cycle.

“I function at a high level with 5 hrs sleep”

Science has proven time and time again for this statement to be untrue! You are in fact performing at a significantly impaired level. Yes, there is variation between individuals but this variations should be between whether you get 7 to 9 h of sleep a night. Anything less has been shown to be significantly impactful to performance and health. In fact, sleeping less than 6 hours a night is known to be one of the best predictors of on the job burnout and increased risk of sickness (cold/flu etc). In America sleep deprivation has been calculated to cost ~63.2 Billion dollars a year in lost productivity, this is ~$2,500 /employee!!

How to facilitate employees sleep  

Naps pods are now being included in many new and leading companies which is amazing. But you don’t have to go that extreme, there are plenty of cheaper and simpler ways that sleep can be addressed. Create a discussion around sleep and highlight the importance of sleep. Where possible analysis, either by questionnaire or even better activity trackers that track sleep quality (Highly recommend for tracking sleep and health: Oura Ring, this is new technology happy to talk you through it if you want to contact us). Put simply the discussion is to create a culture shift, focusing on quality vs quantity of work. Regardless of the hours you work it has been shown humans can only achieve a maximal capacity of 4 hours of quality deep work (we will discuss this further in future post), so make sure that your time counts! Some workplaces that track sleep actually reward employees for getting a good night’s sleep. Aetna, a US-based insurance group, has taken it even further with a sleep scheme to encourage employees to get a minimum of 7 hrs of sleep each night. They have even incentivised it with cash bonuses! Their employees are getting paid to sleep! If an employee sleeps seven or more hours for 20 nights Aetna rewards them with a $25 bonus, this is limited to $300 within a 12-month period. “Being present in the workplace and making better decisions has a lot to do with our business fundamentals,” said Aetna Chairman and CEO Mark Bertolini. “You can’t be prepared if you’re half-asleep.”

Stress management

This goes without saying and something I have written extensively on already in previous posts. With the rise in technology a hazardous result is the continuous stimulation of our bodies natural stress (sympathetic) response, our “fight or flight” reflect. Therefore, success of any wellness program needs to address education and strategies around down regulation methods that can be implemented to regulate our bodies natural responses. Giving us the ability to detach ourselves from the past and the future and giving us the ability to be truly present and the ability to make a impact by working in the present moment.

“You cannot impact the past nor the future without being truly present”

What are down regulation methods?

Sleep is obviously the most important of all but besides sleep, methods such as; breathing, technology free time periods, floatation pods, mindfulness, meditation and grounding practices. These can all have a significant impact on regulating an individual’s stress response.

All of the above have been directly linked to the ability to greatly increase productivity as they promote the ability be present allowing you to achieve a deeper and more focused state of work.

Strategies will look different for everyone, it is important to find strategies that suit each individual to ensure a significant impact. Out of the practices a quick breathing technique is one of the quickest and easiest ways to induce a parasympathetic response or down regulate your system. As discussed in one of the articles below ‘Just Breath’ a simple method is the 4 : 7 : 8 Breathing Technique is perfect in de stressing you. Inhale for 4sec, Hold for 7sec & exhale for 8sec.

 

Previous posts you may find helpful around downregulation:

https://tayloredhealth.co.nz/the-science-behind-mindfulness/

https://tayloredhealth.co.nz/mindfulness-where-to-start/

https://tayloredhealth.co.nz/mindfulness-living-in-the-present-moment/

https://tayloredhealth.co.nz/stressed-out-what-is-adrenal-fatigue-how-is-it-effecting-you/

https://tayloredhealth.co.nz/just-breathe/

 

Time for a Change! Rethink the Work Day

Does the classic 8 hr day / 40 hr work week still work?

This classic work week was first established following World War II. Nowadays, with so much change and development throughout the workforce, many would argue this method is well and truly outdated! The Information Revolution (1974- present) has given us the ability to access information at the tip of our fingers in seconds. With all this automation and easy access to information, we have managed streamline many of the mindless tasks that used to be dreaded and extremely time consuming. However, with the rise of technology so to has the increase in distractions. Just have a look around your workplace, the continually pinging of our phones and email browsers often grab our attention and pull us away from the work we were completing. How is anyone able to get work done, especially when you consider that marketing specialists now use science to their advantage!! Their aim is to access our primal pathways and capture our attention, so instinctively it is getting increasingly harder for us not to respond to the distraction and reduced our ability to focus and filter information effectively.

The development of technology has benefited us as we are able to complete a substantial amount of work outside the office. Some of the latest phones (e.g. Iphone X) have  250 G of storage, that is the equivalent storage of some laptops! (more than my current laptop I write this on 150G..) You could work from home on your phone if you really wanted to.  However, the downside may be that we are expected to respond to and complete work, especially email and notifications being a primary feature of smartphones. This keeps everyone stimulated at all hours of the day, 7 days a week. This then leaves us with no time to downregulate and recover. This constant stimulation is running us into the ground!

Time for a change?

If you ask us we think so! Below are a few case studies of employee focused business who are utilizing various methods to get the most out their staff while keeping health as a prime focus. They like us believe it change is required and are well aware that with increased health in the workplace their is an increased return on investment.

CASE STUDIES 

As for any change it can be difficult without any direction so listed below are a few case studies of successful business that have utilised various strategies to implement change of the traditional work day.

Amazon:

Amazon in 2016 announced a pilot program offering a 30-hour workweek. Selected employees will earn 75 percent of a full-time salary, but receive the same benefits as full-time employees.

The employees are expected to work Monday through Thursday from 10am to 2pm with flexible work hours outside this time frame. This ensures that employees working 30 hours a week will have at least 16 hours of overlap with their other colleagues.

“We want to create a work environment that is tailored to a reduced schedule and still fosters success and career growth,”

We are yet to hear results from this trial but this new format is a common structure that is now being considered across many business.

Basecamp

Another great example of a company implementing a compressed workweek. CEO Jason Fried makes it clear that working overtime is not the way to earn recognition from him. With a strict 32 hour work week, with 4 days of work per week.

Fried says that this cuts out wasted time and allows the employees to focus on what is important. For example, at Basecamp you will rarely find people wasting time with long drawn out meetings that don’t reach and effective conclusion. He has even suggested that meetings be comprised of 4 people or less. “Less people helps a meeting to move a lot faster.”

“If you’re overworked and tired you make mistakes, and mistakes are costly,”

Perpetual Guardian

Closer to home 200 employees at New Zealand trustee company Perpetual Guardian, implemented a six-week long trial which concluded in mid April this year, where staff worked four days a week but got paid for five.

Christine Brotherton, head of people and capability for Perpetual Guardian stated, “People have been thinking quite hard about that third day off and how best to use it so it can change their life. Some people come back to work and are incredibly energised,”

One staff member mentioned “While colleagues still socialise during the work day, the office space is quieter and more concentrated, and “water-cooler chats” are briefer. “I am feeling significantly better equipped when I begin the work week now””

Swedish Nurses 2 year Trial

Sweden completed a 2 year experiment with nurses cutting the 8 hr workday down to 6 hrs making a 30 hr work week instead of traditional 40hrs (for same wage). They had a 22% increase in gross cost as they required staff around the clock to service the patients so had to increase staffing by 15 staff. However, they saw a 10% decrease in sick leave and a 50% increase in perceived employee health. Initially they had no plans to continue this format following the trial, but due to success they set aside 20 mil Swedish krona to implement a similar strategy on other public sectors in Gothenburg.

Sadly this study did not do  a great job at measuring the return on investment so it is hard to predict if it was truly successful from a financial standpoint. It is also often criticised due to high (~22%) increase in gross cost for additional staffing. However, I personally believe it would had made a significant long term gain in employee health, engagement and job satisfaction which would flow into financial gain long term.

Possibly it’s biggest hindrance was being a service based business. Nursing requires continuous stream of staff to serve needs of patients which presents a greater upfront cost in covering staffing needs. It is possible that appling this compressed workweek is more beneficial to knowledge workers (like previous example: amazon & Perpetual Guardian) not so much service workers. Not to say it is not beinfical for service workers but I believe the financial benefits would present a much stronger picture for knowledge workers.

Netflix

Since 2004, Netflix has allowed their employees to take as many vacation days as they have wanted. Employees have the freedom to decide when to show up for work, when to take time off, and how much time it will take them to get the job done. There is no need to request leave they have full autonomy, they just need to keep their managers in the loop.

Why?

With technology increasing access to work outside the office it has become nearly impossible to quantify total work hours completed outside of the office. So instead of complicating things Netflix decide to keep them simple and change with the times and remove the tracking of working hours.  

Netflix high performance culture is so ingrained. Employees on all levels are expected to perform at a very high levels and are rewarded with a generous severance package. Instead of micromanaging their staff the leadership focuses only on what matters—results. From this imparted freedom has created a more responsible and motivated culture that is a lot more productive.

Virgin

Following the Netflix example Sir Richard Branson enforced a similar policy. The policy-that-isn’t permits all salaried staff to take off whenever they want for as long as they want. Like Netflix there is no need to ask for prior approval and neither the employees themselves nor their managers are asked or expected to keep track of their days away from the office. It is the employee’s choice to select their time off a few hours, a day, a week or a month off. The assumption is that staff member is comfortable that their team or project will not be affected by their absence which could inturn damage the business – or, for that matter, their careers!

Google

Google is famous for giving their engineers 20% of their work week to work on whatever they want to, that they believe would most benefit google. Google believes that its highly creative employees will devote at least some of that time to projects that benefit the company.

“This empowers them to be more creative and innovative. Many of our significant advances have happened in this manner.”

 

Conclusion

With a wide range of strategies and with many overlapping it is easy to notice common trends; Strategies that are designed with the employee wellbeing in mind are successful. I believe there is no one size fits all approach and each business needs to assess their business to identify strategies that will work effectively in their setting. Hopefully this highlights that productivity does not come from more time at work but more focused time. Providing tired examples that you can use as templates for establishing change in your workplace.

 

In our next post will talk in depth about strategies for achieving this state of deep work.