The perfect number of hours to work every day? Five

The perfect number of hours to work every day? Five

Research shows that five work hours a day can improve productivity and bolster(ˈbōlstər) wellbeing. There’s only one thing holding companies back

By Margaret Taylor

As employers grapple(ˈɡrapəl) with how to manage the return to the workplace in the wake of Covid-19, the concept of compressed(kəmˈprest) working is making a comeback. As left-of-centre politicians(ˌpäləˈtiSHən) continue to make the case for four-day weeks, they are often forgetting evidence(ˈevədəns) that shows five-hour days may be the better option.

“Research indicates that five hours is about the maximum that most of us can concentrate(ˈkänsənˌtrāt) hard on something,” says Alex Pang, founder of Silicon(ˈsilikən, ˈsiləˌkän) Valley consultancy(kənˈsəltnsē) Strategy and Rest and author of several books examining the links between shorter working hours and productivity. “There are periods when you can push past that, but the reality is that most of us have about that good work time in us every day.”

The eight-hour working day is a relatively(ˈrelədivlē) new concept, widely(ˈwīdlē) accepted to have been cemented(səˈment) by Ford(fôrd) Motor(ˈmōdər) Company a century ago as a means of keeping production going 24 hours a day without putting undue(ˌənˈd(y)o͞o) demands on individual members of staff. Ford’s experiment led to an increase in overall productivity; but proponents(prəˈpōnənt) of five-hour days, including Californian(ˌkaləˈfôrnyən) ecommerce(ēˈkämərs) business Tower Paddle Boards(bôrd) and German digital consultancy Rheingans, say they experienced a similar phenomenon(fəˈnäməˌnän) when they moved to compressed-hour models.