Less working hours and more intelligent automation

The calls for shorter working hours or a shorter workweek have become increasingly prominent as it has proved its significant benefits. In recent years, automation and technology have transformed business practices. Meanwhile, the ongoing pandemic (that never seems to end) surges organizational digitization and promotes remote work. While employees are the most valuable asset, their well-being should be considered crucial to every organization. In this blog, we will look into the proven benefits of working fewer hours and using digital technologies.

Working less hours and its proven benefits

In a recent study, “Going Public: Iceland’s journey to a shorter working week,” researchers conducted a trial of a four-day workweek with the same pay in Iceland. They found productivity remained the same or improved in most workplaces. On the other hand, shorter workweeks boosted employees’ well-being and work-life balance.

One of the main concerns while cutting working hours is that there will be “built-up” tasks that employees will eventually need to work overtime. In addition, the other concern is to provide the same level of service and productivity with fewer working hours. However, the trials contradicted this concern. The reduction in working hours went hand in hand with workplaces implementing new work strategies and cooperation between employees and managers.1

Boosting service provision and productivity

Some of the typical time-hoarding behavior of any cooperate employee are:

  • Long meetings to discuss matters that employees can usually handle virtually in their own time
  • Unplanned interruptions from messaging platforms (notification from Teams or Skype)
  • Traveling, often long-distance, to meet people face-to-face when a phone call would suffice (before the time of COVID)
  • Switching between tasks constantly and feeling exhausted afterward as many of the tasks are halfway through
  • Manual, repetitive, administrative tasks

Having the issues identified, many employees in the Iceland trials stated that they could provide a similar level of service and productivity by being more focused on their work processes, shortening meetings, and removing longer coffee breaks. Harvard Business Review backed up this idea. It stated that the shorter workday forced the team to prioritize effectively, limit interruptions, and operate at a much more conscious level for the first few hours of the day.2

exhausted woman sitting and table and working

Increasing employees’ well-being and work-life balance

There is an increase in employee well-being in the Iceland trial compared to the workplaces with a full workweek. On the other hand, these employees showed less interest in working a part-time schedule and were less prone to refuse overtime. The conclusion is there is more satisfaction with the hours worked.

By creating a more productive workplace and a shorter workweek, companies are set not only for higher productivity and better outcomes but also for more motivated and less-stressed employees.

The benefit of intelligent automation

Today, many executives recognized that digital solutions could help them provide personalized support and improve employee well-being. They have successfully adopted intelligent automation and Artificial Intelligence to automate business processes. By leveraging these new technologies, they improve business operation processes and free up employees’ time by automating repetitive manual tasks.

However, adopting digitalization transformation to embrace a well-being-focused culture does not simply mean buying more robots and letting employees go home early. Business leaders should focus on the changing mindset of the employees alongside the organizational culture and practices to avoid resistance. Some of the points to keep in mind are:

Move away from a technology-focused perspective:

It is not the technology that will bring outstanding performance. Any organizational transformation can only work alongside the human workforce.

Choose the right digital strategy for your organizational goal:

There is an example of robotic process automation (RPA) that we use often. Most RPA automate stand-alone tasks and still require humans to operate bots to complete a simple process. If the goal is to reduce work hours and embrace work-life balance, companies should consider applying end-to-end process automation to maximize productivity and reduce time.

Communicate the bigger picture with employees:

Start implementing new digital technologies to cut time will create fear of losing jobs. Most of the successful participants in the Iceland trial mentioned that the reduction in working hours went hand in hand with implementing new work strategies and cooperation between employees and managers. Therefore, communicating with employees and getting them involved in the whole transition process will help them see the benefits.

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