In 1938, President Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act in an attempt to end what he called “starvation wages and intolerable hours.”
More than 75 years later, many American companies still find creative ways to overwork their employees beyond what is fair, reasonable and healthy.
In Roosevelt’s day, blue-collar jobs, like manufacturing and mining, generated the most cause for concern. Now, highly educated information workers find themselves in a similar predicament.
The high cost of overtime
Startups, tech companies and other organizations continue to expand their reach into the lives of their employees in a negative way by pushing them to log long hours.
What begins as an exception soon becomes the norm. A product launch, a trade show, a sprint. Sometimes the work doesn’t fit into the time allotted. Often lack of planning is the culprit.
Regardless of the reason, employees inevitably are called upon to save the project, sacrificing their personal lives for the good of the company.
When this becomes standard practice, everyone loses. The employee, the employee’s family and the company all suffer. People burn out. Kids don’t get to see their parents before bedtime. Turnover skyrockets.
A new way of thinking
The good news is that we’ve found a better way. You can build a strong business—with loyal employees, happy customers, healthy margins and manageable stress—without working more than 40 hours a week.
How do I know? Because at my company, BambooHR, we’ve built a rapidly growing global business on the merits of an “anti-workaholic” policy.
To start with, we offer flexible schedules so our team members can get kids off to school in the morning, make time for a dance recital or school performance, or leave a little early to go camping for the weekend. These events in life don’t happen often, but they are precious moments that shouldn’t be overlooked in the name of work. We also don’t want anyone working more than 40 hours per week. There may occasionally be an emergency, but it is definitely an exception to the rule.
We want our employees to have the time to be involved with whatever brings them joy and recharges their energy beyond our halls (rock climbing, making a casserole for a hungry neighbor, etc.). The work will still be there waiting for them when they return in the morning. The difference is, because they’re rested, fed and fulfilled, they’ll actually do better work and more of it while they’re on the clock. It’s a beautiful thing.
The benefits of a 40-hour workweek
Henry Ford made a wise business decision in 1926. His automobile assembly lines implemented a 40-hour workweek to allow his employees to spend more time with their families. He was rewarded with a happier workforce and increased productivity.
At BambooHR, we’ve reaped similar benefits. The constraint of the 40-hour week forces us to plan and estimate better, communicate more clearly, and focus on the strategic objectives that truly drive our business forward.
We’ve seen that people are excited to come to work, even on a Monday. This enthusiasm shows in their performance. Creativity and clear thinking produce solid progress and solutions.
This policy has not hindered company growth. The business, the team and our customers have all benefited as we allow room for family, friends and hobbies. We are recharged and energized to continue making BambooHR the best HR software in the world for small and medium businesses.
With a flexible 40-hour workweek, I feel that we are free to do our best work. I invite other companies to follow suit and reevaluate their current practices to bring more balance to work and life. You’ll be glad you did.