Screw Long Hours And Endless Meetings

Written by in Practices
- 4 min read

For many people, working long hours is business as usual. Some are even proud of it. They think it shows ambition and dedication. Wrong!

In our view, it’s the opposite. If you are not in control of your own hours and working pace, it is a weakness. It means you are a slave to other peoples' priorities.

Chill the f*ck down

To cure these poisonous work cultures, progressive companies are experimenting with other approaches. They deliberately value calmness in their organizations. They free colleagues from unhealthy stress and work-life imbalance.

Here’s some inspiration.

1. The four-day workweek

Experiments are underway on more flexible hours. The aim is a better balance between work and private life.

One of the best is to be found in New Zealand. Perpetual Guardian, an Asset Management company, has experimented with a four-day work-week. The experiment covered 240 employees over two months. (But all got paid for 5 days).

The experiment was rigorously evaluated by Auckland University of Technology.

The results? 78% of employees) indicated having an improved balance between work life and private life (an increase of 24%). Their stress levels went down, and satisfaction with both work and private life increased. Motivation, performance, and joy in their work increased as well.

In short, this was a success from several angles.

2. Cap versus targets

Law firm BvdV decided to ignore the common practice in law of working crazy hours. They adopted some powerful practices to beat the status quo.

Martina van Eldik, one of the lawyers, explained their way of combatting the craziness of long hours: “There is a yearly maximum equivalent to about 1128 billable hours (47 weeks 4 days 6 hours) that you can make at the firm. We introduced a turnover cap, instead of turnover targets. That’s how we prevent excessive billing, and thereby introduce a workweek of only 4 days.”

“Sure, you can work more hours, but it is just not financially beneficial for you. We believe a healthy work-life balance is essential for creativity and long-term employment. A working week of 4 days is the norm at BvdV—not the exception.”

3. Kill distractions

We ourselves set out to kill the continuous distractions that were draining our focus, creativity and productivity. One way we do this is through an email detox. Everyday, we set Outlook to “work offline” mode. Then, just once a day, we retrieve and send messages.

The outcome? We feel more at ease and in control of our work. Studies show similar results. Checking email less frequently reduces stress and, paradoxically, people actually respond 20% faster!

Time to join the email detox.

4. Celebrate summer time

US-based IT company It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work (highly recommended), the founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, describe their aversion for long hours, packed schedules, and endless meetings.

They write: “Out of the 60, 70, or 80 hours a week many people are expected to pour into work, how many of those hours are really spent on the work itself? And how many of those hours are tossed away in meetings, lost in distraction, and withered away by inefficient business practices? The bulk of them.”

“The answer isn’t more hours. It’s less bullshit, less waste, not more production, and far fewer distractions, less always-on anxiety, and avoiding stress. […] If it’s constantly crazy at work, we have two words for you: Fck that. And two more: Enough already.”

Our type of boys!

Going beyond complaining about the status quo, Jason and David built an organization around calmness. Another innovation? In summer time, they cut out one workday every week. From May through September they work 4-day, 32-hour weeks.

And they don’t intend to do the same amount of work in fewer hours. They simply adapt their ambitions, and in summer take on simpler projects.

Create your own calmness

There are many ways to go about creating a calm organization. The above examples shouldn’t be copy-pasted. They are meant as inspiration. Take what you like and adapt to your own environment.

Start experimenting. Find your own way to a calmer, healthier organization. Beat the stupidity of long hours and packed schedules.

Take control!

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