A German Consulting Firm Switched to a 5-Hour Workday. Everything Improved.

Productivity stayed the same and profits rose

Five hour workday
A German company now has employees only working 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
Sarinya Pinngam / EyeEm / Getty Images
By Kirk Miller / October 25, 2019 11:56 am

“Face time” in the office is a joke. You know it, your boss knows it, your employees know it.

One company in Germany decided to do something about long, unproductive hours. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the tech consulting firm Rheingans Digital Enabler cut the workday to five succinct hours, while keeping salaries and vacation at their normal levels.

The company’s days start at 8 a.m. and end at 1 p.m., with some slight flexibility. To achieve this goal, there were sacrifices: Small talk was discouraged, social media was banned and smartphones were tucked away.

On the other hand, meetings were scheduled for just 15 minutes. And company emails were only checked twice a day.

As owner Lasse Rheingans claims, productivity and output remained level with the 40-hour weeks and the company turned a profit in its first year under Rehingans’ ownership. Plus, the five-hour day became a recruiting tool.

“We sit in the office, out of energy, reading newspapers online or Facebook, just in need of the little pauses to recharge, but you don’t really recharge,” Rheingans says. “My idea is focusing on the first five hours and then just leave, and have a proper break.”

He certainly has some data to back him up. Productivity is at its highest in the morning, and definitely dips after lunch. And some experts, including Stanford’s Alex Pang, think four hours is the actual ideal work period.

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