The 6.5-hour working day: work less hours and do more!

14 May 2021

Working fewer hours and still getting more work done sounds illogical, right? And yet, experiments show that a shorter working day leads to more productivity, with happier employees and less absenteeism. Do you want your organization to excel in the service to your customers, by ensuring that everything goes right first time within the organization, is on time and delivered at an excellent price? The shortened working day could be a good tool for achieving this level of operational excellence.

“With process improvement methods, we reduce waste as much as possible and create maximum value for our customer.”

 

Making the production process more efficient - particularly shortening the order lead times - is a priority at Comfoor. Not only to better serve our customers, but also to offer our employees the best possible working environment. By using process improvement methods, we try to reduce waste as much as possible and create maximum value for our customer. So, we are dedicated to constant and increasing product and process improvements, while eliminating, simplifying, reducing or integrating unnecessary activities.

Production smoothing for production efficiency

At Comfoor we have to deal with fluctuations in the demand for our otoplastics due to peak periods. These peak phases cause inequalities in the production process. Therefore, to improve our production efficiency, it is necessary to smooth out the production process. With the use of production smoothing techniques (or Heijunca) we can better deal with irregularities in demand. Reducing the hours in a working day for production workers is an example of such a technique we have used for this; from an 8-hour to a 6.5-hour working day.

“A shorter working day ensures that people focus better, have more energy and feel more loyalty towards their employer”

 

The benefits of a shortened working day

The shortened working day has received a lot of attention in recent years, especially in Scandinavia, but it is certainly not a new concept. Toyota, founder of the lean manufacturing concept, already implemented a 6-hour working day in 2003. Research and experiments have shown that by working more efficiently employees can do just as much work in 6 hours as they do in 8! A shorter working day ensures that people focus better, which makes them more productive. They are left with more energy, which creates a better work-life balance and increases job satisfaction. In addition, employees who have more free time to spend with their families and loved ones feel more loyalty towards their employer and there is evidence that a shorter working day can help reduce absenteeism.

The realization of a 6.5-hour working day at Comfoor

With the forementioned results in mind we started developing the shortened working day at Comfoor three years ago. In order to implement sustainable and effective change, we have opted for a bottom-up approach. We set up a working group with production employees and managers, who themselves could give their input and direction to the change. This approach ensured that the involvement of our employees for the project was optimal and created broad support within the organization. By requesting structural feedback from the employees and in regular consultation with the management team, the working group listened carefully to the wishes of both the employees and the employer and incorporated those wishes as well as possible in the proposal for the new working hours. In addition, the working group was also responsible for feedback to the rest of the organization. Every change process involves resistance and our working time project also encountered various objections. The search for solutions involved a lot of creativity, which ultimately resulted in pleasant negotiations and satisfactory compromises about things such as the start and end times or the compensation scheme. 

Representing the interests of both the company and your colleagues is not an easy task and consequently has put the working group on occasion in a difficult position. Despite all those challenges, they have done a great job, which we as an organization are extremely proud of! The working group eventually came to the conclusion that a 6.5-hour working day would bring the most benefit to the production process. With the new working hours, employees are still paid for a full working day, while they work 6.5 hours a day. To compensate, all production employees work a fixed number of Saturdays per year to meet high demand during peak periods.

Transition to new working hours

Surprisingly, the outbreak of Corona provided us with the perfect transition moment for the introduction of the new working hours on April 1, 2020. Due to the COVID measures, we had already introduced different working hours within the organization as the workload was relatively low.

To allow for the employees to get used to the new situation, we established a two-year transition period for the entire production workforce. The few employees who cannot or do not want to keep up with the new working hours have been deployed to other positions in the organization, to ensure an undisrupted production process.

“It turns out that it is possible to do the same amount of work in fewer hours, with more satisfied, healthier and engaged employees!”

 

Result

One year after the introduction of the shortened working day, we can already conclude that we are on the right track to achieve our objectives. The production process is more efficient and lead times for orders have been significantly shortened. Employees indicate that they have less stress, more time for their private affairs and more structure in their lives, since they work regular shifts and overtime is no longer necessary. Absenteeism also shows a positive development, especially in the balance between psychological and physical complaints. In the past, the complaints were more often related to stress and fatigue, while in the new situation they appear to be mainly physical. It turns out that it is possible to do the same amount of work in fewer hours, with more satisfied, healthier and engaged employees!

Tags: #productionsmoothing #leanmanufacturing #operationalexcellence #worktime #productivity # work-life balance #workhours #Comfoor #hearing protection #otoplastics

Written by: Daniëlle van der Wiel - Operations manager Comfoor