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Managing Staff

How To Successfully Run A 30-Hour Work Week

If you believe it’s time to cut the fat from your work day and reap the benefits — for yourself and your employees — then a shorter work week might be the solution.

Ben Wren

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  • Old school: Traditional 8 to 5 work days.
  • New School: Millennial, the Internet and disruptive technologies have changed the way we work. Isn’t it time the work week evolved as well?

Times are changing. The notion of an eight to five workday, Monday to Friday, is being contested. Across industries, businesses are beginning to see the value of a shorter 30-hour workweek where staff work in concentrated bursts.

Amazon is the latest firm to investigate the merits of the idea and I firmly believe it should be embraced
at large.

My background is in advertising, where I have 20 years of experience in South Africa and abroad. I have long held the belief that working long hours for the sake of it not only hampers productivity, but produces inferior work — irrespective of the business. There’s no reason staff can’t work six hours a day and contribute to a massively successful company.

So, why do many companies work long hours? It’s an ingrained way of doing business that pre-dates the Internet when it was necessary to group people in a room together for a set number of hours a day.

Worse, it’s self-fulfilling. A staff member confined to an office nine, ten or more hours a day relishes the opportunity to subject junior staff to the same treatment years down the line. We invariably want other people to ‘go through what we’ve gone through’ and many businesses abuse their power, subjecting staff to late hours at short notice.

Related: Busy Cardiologist Dr Riaz Motara Works A 4-Day Work Week – Here’s How

In another sense, long hours spent in an office are an easy way to claim productivity. But that’s of course a fallacy — and we all know it — because for many of us, large parts of a workday are spent waiting for emails and not tackling what’s important.

No one is necessarily at fault. The fact of the matter is that staff drag their feet when they’re watching the clock. But flip the equation around — by placing the emphasis on fewer hours but increased productivity — and the difference is night and day.

No matter your industry, these are a few ways you can cut the fat from your workday and reap the benefits.

Encourage staff to manage their time

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Whether you’re selling a service, a product or something in between, encourage workers to get their work done and get out into the fresh air, and you’ll see productivity sky-rocket.

Choose your clients carefully

Business tells us that clients are everything — but be careful of bending over backwards for them. Some clients completely understand the importance of a strong relationship and put the correct reward structures in place. Other clients dangle financial carrots and promise to buy your work, but always net you a large financial loss.

Control your overheads

We all love fancy offices but they come at a cost. With most meetings taking place at the client and increased use of Skype/Google Hangouts, consider moving your premises further out of town and making it more employee-focused. The money spent on meeting rooms and an expensive reception can be better utilised elsewhere.

Related: Work Less, Work Better. Use These 5 Steps to Design Your Perfect Week

Increase the freelance ratio

Businesses don’t use freelancers enough. With a smaller full-time team, you’ll reach internal goals faster while freelance help will enable you to scale a project. (Admittedly, it’s more difficult for larger multinational companies to accomplish this but a rigorously streamlined approach still holds merit.)

Pay a fair salary — but don’t overpay

There’s a lot of competition for jobs nowadays and sometimes you have to get the cheque book out to get the person you want. This is great, but don’t be held to ransom. Attract talent with your big picture thinking and reward employees with a bonus structure based on performance and business success.

Choose your employees carefully

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A focused and self-motivated person can deliver more work in six hours than an unfocused staffer can in 12. But not everyone will buy into this way of thinking, so don’t try and push the idea onto them. Concentrate on finding talent who see the importance of a healthy work/life ratio and will maximise their output when they’re in the office.

Related: 3 Types Of Employees You Don’t Need

Steer clear of an ‘always available’ attitude

Unless you’re a corner shop, why should you be open all the time? Make sure your clients understand the hours of the day they can contact your firm and stick to it.

Remember: Productivity declines the longer the day drags on

With any luck, your staff will not only be more productive — they’ll be happier too.

Making a shift

Our best ideas come when we’re at home, relaxed. In the end, you’re paying people not only for their time in the office but also for the ideas you can extract from them when they’re doing anything but work.

I believe a 30-hour workweek can work anywhere in the world, and it’s already being trialled in Scandinavian Europe. In fact, I believe we should strive for the goal. We’re only as good as the people who work with us, and to attract good people, we need to change with the times: Young talent is placing a higher emphasis on a favourable work/life balance than ever before.

Some people still get a buzz from working 12-hour days, but for many of us, spending all our lives at the office seems counter-productive and, worse, downright unappealing.

With a career spanning over twenty years, starting in London and now in Cape Town, Ben Wren has been fortunate enough to work with some of the best clients in world. These include: Nike (W+K London), Microsoft (Euro RSCG London), Coco Cola (60 Layers of Cake South Africa), Windhoek Lager (The Jupiter Drawing Room Cape Town) and Diageo (Isobar South Africa). Last year, he put his experience to good use by embracing entrepreneurship and starting his own venture: Area 213 Communications & Area 213 International.

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Managing Staff

Why Uninsured Employees Are Bad For Business

Often businesses assume that their employees will take the necessary steps to insure themselves, but in reality, many people don’t. By covering your employees you’re not just insuring their financial futures if something happens, you’re covering your business too.

Anthony Miller

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Entrepreneurship is not for sissies. It involves dreams and risks. Cash flow is crucial and often thin on the ground, as owners juggle the challenges of overheads and growth. An entrepreneur or SME owner cannot fall back on the financial cushioning that is characteristic of much larger corporate businesses.

That said, as an entrepreneur have you ever thought what would happen if one of your staff members were suddenly unable to provide for their families due to death or disability? Would their family be left destitute? Would you as a business owner feel obliged to contribute to cover funeral costs and offer support to the family concerned?

If so, you should be considering a group life policy as the financial and emotional strain on the business can be significant. Group cover is generally far cheaper than retail cover. In many cases, employees can even cancel their individual cover and, in so doing, save a significant amount of money.

Recognising both the need and the opportunity, our business, Simply Financial Services, recently introduced an online Group Cover product. These are our top five questions asked by business owners when considering employee benefits.

Related: The Simple Way To Pay Wages When Your Staff Don’t Have Bank Accounts

1. Why is group life cover better for my employees than their retail alternatives?

Group life insurance holds numerous benefits for individuals. First, since the employer pays the premium, persistency is typically better and dependants are more consistently protected. Second, the cost of group cover is often far lower (for equivalent cover) than the individual could get directly. Third, better cover may be provided for people with impaired health. And finally, waiting periods are often waived or shortened. We’re convinced that good value group cover is a net positive investment for a company.

2. Is group life cover affordable?

Group life cover starts at very affordable levels. Meaningful cover can be obtained from about R49 per employee per month. Also, there are ways to structure the payment of premiums in such a way that it becomes part of your employees’ total remuneration package. You may for example want to structure it so that the employee makes a contribution, which is matched by the business.

Affordability is obviously important to SME owners and entrepreneurs. Costs need to be weighed against benefits both in terms of increased loyalty and job satisfaction from employees, and the potential cost to the business if a key member of staff is disabled or dies.

3. What does group life cover typically include?

Cover varies a lot from provider to provider and ranges from very simple funeral policies to very complex death and disability cover. Cover can be a multiple of annual salary or a fixed amount of cover for both life and disability, and a fixed amount of cover for family funerals. You should look out for the following when selecting your product:

  • What’s included in the cover? What benefits does it include? In our view, you should look for a product that provides good value protection products (eg. life, disability, family funeral). This caters for as wide a range of scenarios as possible. Be careful you don’t end up with a bundle of value added services (eg. free airtime) and very little life or disability cover.
  • Free cover limits. Is there a guaranteed amount of cover (the ‘free cover limit’), up to which your employees are covered for death and disability from both natural and accidental causes (full cover), irrespective of employee numbers?
  • Waiting period. How long would you have to wait, from when you take out the policy, before your employees get full cover, rather than just accidental-only cover?
  • How does the price compare with your alternatives — both group and retail — and how are premiums likely to change over time?

Related: 11 SA Entrepreneurs on What They’ve Learnt About Managing Staff

4. What’s hidden in the fine print?

It’s really important to check the fine print, to ensure there are no nasty surprises when there’s a claim. Many providers have complex policy rules and documents, and SMEs only discover the details when it’s too late. A good barometer is to look at how simple and transparent the sign-up process is, and how user-friendly the policy documents are.

5. What provider should I choose?

Make sure your insurance provider has a reliable track record, and is underwritten by a recognised insurance provider. There are a lot of fly-by-night players out there and you need to ensure that the policy you are buying has the backing of established and well-recognised market players. You need to be confident that your insurer can be trusted to pay when it comes to claim time.

6. How do I go about buying and administering the policy?

Traditionally, brokers have sold group life policies and provided admin support to their clients. Since quite a lot of work is involved and commissions are limited, brokers have not typically been available to SMEs. As such, there is a long tail of SMEs who don’t have group life cover and their employees are at risk. Fortunately, there are now options available that allow SMEs to do it themselves online and for brokers to serve SMEs cost-effectively.

You need to decide whether you want the peace of mind of working through a broker or the speed, control and convenience of doing it yourself online.

In conclusion, we believe group life insurance offers much value and peace of mind for SMEs. While many South Africans have funeral cover, very few have life or disability cover.  As an SME owner or manager, you can show you care by taking a policy for your employees.  Not only will you probably save money relative to an equivalent retail product, you’ll be amazed at how much your employees will appreciate your care and generosity. And you’ll be able to sleep easy, knowing their families will be taken care of if they die or become disabled.

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Managing Staff

Day Zero And Your Employees – What An Entrepreneur Needs To Know

With Day Zero pushed out to 2019, entrepreneurs in the Western Cape are still left with one concerning question: “What will happen to my business should the water supply still run dry?”

Jose Jorge

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Depending on their reliance on municipal water, entrepreneurs could potentially find themselves without the ability to generate revenue in the absence of water. During this time, they will still be expected to pay staff a salary, creating a potentially untenable situation for certain businesses.

It is imperative that entrepreneurs in the Western Cape region start early discussions with their employees to find possible solutions that can be implemented should Day Zero actually hit. CDH provides the following possibilities to consider:

To pay or not to pay, that is the question

The duty of the employer to pay remuneration continues as long as the employee tenders his or her services. This is also the case where an employee is prevented from working, due to an unanticipated or unpreventable act such as a natural disaster.

Related: SME Survey: Day Zero Warning Hits SMEs Hard

An employer would have to pay its employees that tender work even if it cannot provide them with any work. Fortunately for employers, labour law recognises certain measures that can be taken to minimise this burden. The two most common are short-time and the temporary suspension of payment of remuneration. It is also important to note that these two measures can only be implemented if all parties concerned have agreed to it.

Short-time is a system of work that is used for periods when there is little or no work. The system recognises that paying an employee for periods when he or she is not working places undue strain on the financial position of the employer and the employee.

Employees may either agree to short-time in a contract of employment, or an employer may enter into a collective agreement regulating short-time with a union representing the affected employees.

A temporary suspension of payment of remuneration may be implemented when there is some prospect of the work situation improving in the near future and the employer being able to provide the employee with work. This may be implemented as an alternative to a dismissal.

Where there is no agreement to these alternatives an entrepreneur will have to engage with his or her employees, explain the company’s position and attempt to secure an agreement in this regard. If an employer is unable to do so, he or she may have to consider retrenchments.

Can you retrench employees as a result of Day Zero?

This is a difficult question. An employer will have to consider whether employees’ inability to work will be for a prolonged period.

There is no way of knowing how long a drought will continue. With the unpredictable effects of global warming, the weather has become increasingly difficult to forecast. The World Wildlife Fund anticipates that if the Western Cape region receives the same rainfall pattern as last year, the drought will continue for six months.

Related: Why Innovative Employee Benefits Are Your Competitive Advantage

The Labour Relations Act, No. 66 of 1995 allows an employer to retrench employees for ‘operational requirements’. Operational requirements are defined as requirements based on economic, technological, structural or similar needs.

In order to establish that an ‘operational requirements’ dismissal is substantively fair, an employer must determine that genuine operational requirements exist. If the anticipated consequence of the drought is that a business may not be able to continue with its operations – without access to municipal water – this would constitute an operational requirement.

In conclusion, CDH advises entrepreneurs in the region whose business is heavily reliant on water to consider entering into working arrangements with their employees for the duration of the drought. This will ensure that the entrepreneur and the employee are both in agreement regarding available options should Day Zero occur. It will also help provide a sustainable alternative to retrenchments.

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Managing Staff

10 Corny But Undeniably True And Inspiring Quotes About Teamwork

As Michael Jordan said, “Talent wins games; teamwork wins championships.” He ought to know.

Blake Snow

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With two games remaining, my daughter’s soccer team is in second place. They’ve won nine games and lost only one – to the team in third place.

Although that team doesn’t not have as many star players as our side, they beat us on the admittedly widely held but elusive principle that sharing the ball leads to more goals (and better defense) than impressive dribbling or individuality.

In other words, their 11 played better as a team than the three remarkable players on my daughter’s team. Granted, the third-place team probably dropped more games than we did because playing as an effective team in consecutive games is harder to do. After all, it’s easier for a few great players to show up to every game (as we have mostly done) than a reliable team.

Related: 7 Team Building Ideas To Create An Engaged Team

In any case, my daughter’s “club” will square off against the first place team this weekend. I suspect they’ll lose unless they listen to Michael Jordan: “Talent wins games; teamwork wins championships.”

The same is true in business and life in general.

If we want to “win championships” in both of those, we have to get others involved, pass more, risk failure, allow teammates to learn from their mistakes by letting them commit them and putting the needs of the group above our own selfish aspirations.

To that end, I encourage you, my daughter’s soccer team and everyone else interested in winning to consider and internalise my 10 favourite quotes on the importance of competing as a team. Some are a bit corny. All are true.

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