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HOW ABOUT A SIX-HOUR WORKDAY?

Can a move to a six-hour workday increase productivity and the happiness quotient of employees and their families and at the same time increase productivity and company profits?   In the U.S., more than 60 years after workers, through their unions, began organizing for an eight-hour day in the 1860s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938 for all workers to see limits on working hours — initially 44 hours a week, then phased to 42 and eventually 40 by 1940.

Today some businesses in Sweden are trying out a six-hour workday hoping to get more done in a shorter amount of time and ensure people have the energy to enjoy their private lives.   This change is purely experimental and a voluntary one that has not been mandated by law nor implemented nationwide.

A Toyota vehicle service center in Sweden’s second largest city Gothenburg moved to shorter days thirteen years ago.  The service center reported a happier staff, a lower turnover rate, and an increase in profits during that time.  The new system keeps the garages open longer and generates new business.  Employees are doing the same amount in the six-hour workday, often more than they did in the eight-hour day.  The service center reports that employees have more stamina to do this heavy work, and they have seen greater profits and customers because cars are getting fixed faster.

The most high-profile case in recent months is the publicly funded Svartedalens nursing home in west Sweden which started a trial of a six-hour day in February 2015 to continue until the end of 2016 when they will determine whether the cost of hiring new staff members to cover the hours lost is worth the improvements to patient care and boost of employees’ morale.  The nursing home has 80 nurses working six-hour shifts maintaining their eight-hour salaries while 80 staffers at another nursing home work their standard hours.  At halfway through 2016, the nursing home trying the six-hour workday has half the average sick leave, the nurses are happier and the care is better.  The study, however, equates productivity with the quality of care, which doesn’t necessarily translate to white-collar work.

Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska University Hospital’s orthopedics unit switched 89 nurses and doctors to a six-hour day last year, hiring 15 staffers to ensure the hospital work got done.  The test was expensive, costing the hospital $123,000 a month, but no one has called in sick since it began and the nurses and doctors have been found to be more efficient.

A number of startup companies have announced that they are also testing the concept.  These include Background AB, a creative communication agency in Falun, Dalarna and Filimundus, an app developer based in Stockholm.  Linus Feldt, Filimundus CEO believes that staying focused on a specific work task for eight hours is a huge challenge.  During an eight or more hour workday, employees take frequent breaks and look for distractions and diversions such as social media to make the workday more endurable.  With the six-hour workday, staff members at Filimundus are not allowed on social media, meetings are kept to a minimum, and the company does it’s best to eliminate other unproductive distractions.

Most of the companies who have made the shift to the six-hour workday have reported a positive impact, from increased efficiency to better communication and fewer staff sick days.  A 2014 Stanford University research paper found a “non-linear” relationship between hours worked and productivity, as well as too much work, can actually impinge productivity.  According to a study by the Families and Work Institute, overworked employees make more mistakes.  Research has shown that condensing work into more efficient hours is very unlikely to hurt productivity.  There is no need to lower pay and in fact, companies are likely to save money through less sick and personal leave, less stress leading to better health, and lower turnover costs.

Opponents of the six-hour workday feel that if Sweden were to adopt this standard, the economy would suffer from reduced competitiveness and strained finances.  The six-hour day has not been embraced by larger Swedish companies and other towns in Sweden that previously tested shorter workdays ultimately abandoned them.  In the northern city of Kiruna, officials scrapped a six-hour day for 250 municipal employees after 16 years, citing high expenses and resentment among workers who were not part of the program.

The six-hour work day would be less accepted in the U.S. because the eight+ hour workday ethic is so deeply embedded in our culture.  According to Gallup’s 2014 poll, full-time employees in the U.S. work an average of 47 hours per week.  It will be interesting to watch how the six-hour workday plays out in Sweden.  However, even with encouraging results, it’s unlikely that the U.S. will shift to shorter days anytime soon.  The rest of the world (outside of Europe) a 40-hour work week would be a very nice improvement as well.

At WageWatch our compensation consultants are focused on your organization’s compensation needs and ready to help you ensure that your compensation programs are supporting your company’s business strategy and objectives. WageWatch also offers accurate, up-to-date benefit surveys, salary surveys and pay practices data that will allow you to stay current with the times. This information is highly beneficial in creating the best salary and benefits packages that meet or rival the industry standards. For more information on our services, including consulting, salary survey data, benefit survey data and market compensation reports, please call WageWatch at 888-330-9243 or contact us online.

DRAMATIC CHANGES FOR PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT

Organizations are exploring some new and innovative performance management systems in an effort to truly inspire and motivate their teams with some encouraging results. Traditional performance management systems typically set goals related to the business plan, utilize performance appraisals that are too lengthy, redundant, hastily completed to meet deadlines, and often don’t allow employees any real input.  Many HR leaders believe that performance reviews yield inaccurate results due to biased approaches and misleading inputs.  Performance Appraisals are essentially a forced ranking system that can actually be very demotivating.

The traditional systems are beginning to shift to a more effective coaching system that focuses on employee achievement of measurable goals and objectives rather than formalized annual appraisal systems that primarily communicate one-way.  There are many examples of progressive companies that have replaced their traditional performance management systems with a culture of coaching, feedback, development, and high performance. Critical to success is that everyone in a leadership role is trained on how to coach and provide constant performance feedback, which in turn, engages employees and creates a desire to continuously improve.

The goal of managing performance is being replaced with a goal of obtaining the best possible sustainable performance under the current circumstances.   Key elements of this new paradigm include:

  • Simplify the Process:  Train managers on how to coach, give feedback and regularly check in with employees.  Focus on developing employees rather than evaluating and giving them a ‘rating’.  Ask questions that help target what the employee needs, such as, “What skills would you most like to improve on?” or “What can I do to help you?” Review employee progress more frequently making the process less intimidating and more sensitive.
  • Streamline, shorten or completely replace Performance Review forms:  Replace the forms with on-going coaching and feedback.  Feedback must be timely to be meaningful.
  • More agile, relevant, frequent and transparent goal management:  Include employees in the discussion of key performance objectives, ensuring they understand the reasons for the goals and can see how they are linked to organizational goals.  Utilize more short term goals that are easier for employees to derive meaning from what they do every day.  Create achievable goals and regularly monitor employee progress.
  • Address career goals and future training needs:  Include a system that supports follow-up and delivery of the training and career opportunities.  Create a culture where managers can delegate without feeling threatened, knowing they also have opportunity and training for the next career advancement.
  • Eliminate direct correlation between performance rating and compensation:  Make pay adjustments based on a combination of elements such as performance, customer and business impact, skill scarcity and the competitive nature of employees’ positions.

Employees want to perform at their best.  They want to understand the goals and to be motivated.  They want to contribute, be supported, to learn and to have fun.  Management and leaders need to create the conditions needed for a great performance to take place and for business to flourish.  The ideal process for managing performance is one that successfully motivates and supports staff to contribute to the achievement of the goals and objectives of the organization.  A culture that encourages on-going communication and coaching between managers and their employees has many benefits and advantages over traditional Performance Management.

Change can be challenging and demanding.  At WageWatch our compensation consultants can assist with your organization’s compensation needs and help you ensure that your compensation programs are supporting your company’s business strategy and objectives.  WageWatch also offers accurate, up-to-date benefit survey data, market compensation data and salary surveys that will allow you to stay current with the times.  This information is highly beneficial in creating the best salary and benefits packages that meet or rival the industry standards.  For more information on our services, including consulting, salary survey data, benefit survey data, and market compensation reports, please call WageWatch at 888-330-9243 or contact us online.

JOINT EMPLOYER LIABILITY

The use of sub-contractors, temporary staffing, leased employees and independent contractors can provide employers with quick temporary staffing and reduce benefits and payroll costs. However, the employer client can be considered a joint employer with the leasing or temporary agency when they share certain key employment terms such as the ability to hire, fire or discipline the workers, affect their compensation and benefits, and direct and supervise their performance.  When businesses use temporary agency, leased, or contract workers, though the employer is the temporary help, leasing, or contracting company, the client business may be regarded as a joint employer under some laws.

The Family and Medical Leave Act has specific language regarding joint employer relationships. While the leasing or temporary help agency is the primary employer, the client company may be required to place the worker in the same or comparable position upon his or her return from FMLA leave.  Additionally, leased and temporary workers will count as employees of the client company for the purposes of determining whether a business is subject to the FMLA regulations.

In the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982, leased and temporary workers are the client’s employees for the purposes of qualifying retirement plans and certain fringe benefits such as life insurance and cafeteria plans (does not apply to health insurance benefits), if the workers have been engaged with the client company on a full-time basis for a minimum of one year and the client company primarily controls or directs their work.

An employer can face a charge of discrimination under Title VII anti-discrimination legislation brought by an individual who worked for the employer under one of these leasing or sub-contractor relationships.

It has also come into question with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) whether leased and temporary workers must be included in collective bargaining agreements that cover the client’s regular employees.

Some states have passed legislation on joint employer liability as it pertains to workers’ compensation regulation.  New York ruled that the client is the common law employer of leased employees and is therefore primarily responsible for providing workers’ compensation benefits. To date there have been no guidelines for joint employer status under OSHA or other health and safety regulations.

Employers need to be aware of and have guidelines regarding the degree of control they have over these temporary, leased and contract workers. The greater the degree of control, the greater the likelihood that the employer could be determined to be a joint employer.

At WageWatch our compensation consultants are focused on your organization’s compensation needs and ready to help you ensure that your compensation programs are supporting your company’s business strategy and objectives. WageWatch also offers accurate, up-to-date benefit surveys, salary surveys and pay practices data that will allow you to stay current with the times. This information is highly beneficial in creating the best salary and benefits packages that meet or rival the industry standards. For more information on our services, including consulting, salary survey data, benefit survey data and market compensation reports, please call WageWatch at 888-330-9243 or contact us online.