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Category: Leave Tracking

Back in December 2018 I wrote an article here to answer the question, Is the Four-Day Work Week Finally Catching On? Soon after publishing the article, a number of people contacted me to say I should also write about the three-day work week. My initial reaction, I have to admit, was one of sheer incredulity. How can that even be possible? As it turns out, it is possible and people are doing it – but don’t worry, it’s more an individual thing than an employer thing. In other words, your company does not have to worry about offering a three day work week option any time soon, if ever.


The Work Week’s History Revisited

As I explained in my previous work week article, the 40-hours-per-week standard was never selected because it was optimal – it was chosen as a way to protect people from being overworked in factories. But this begs the question of whether or not there is an optimal work week, or an optimal work day for that matter.


As the Industrial Revolution ramped up in the late 1700s, factories were running 24/7 and practically killing people with 10-16 hours in a day. Over in Britain, a fellow by the name of Robert Owen came along and started a campaign to shorten the work day and work week. He was a Welsh textile manufacturer and social reformer who was horrified by working conditions for both children and adults. In 1810 he was arguing in favor of a 10-hour work day, but by 1817 had switched to demanding an 8-hour day. He created a slogan to promote his idea: “Eight hours’ labour, Eight hours’ recreation, Eight hours’ rest.”


In the United States the fight for an 8-hour work day was long and fractured, with progress made in fits and starts by individual companies, industries and political jurisdictions. It wasn’t until the 1937 Fair Labor Standards Act that the 40-hour work week became federal law, requiring overtime pay beyond 40 hours in a week. Although as originally enacted it only applied to about 20% of the overall workforce, it soon became the accepted standard throughout corporate America.


What Science Says About the Work Day

Part of the issue here is that talking about the length of the work day and the work week is the wrong way to approach the issue. The core concern here is productivity, right? So, the real question is what is the optimal way to work for maximum productivity. When you approach the issue from this angle, then science does have something to say about it. This is because there are natural rhythms to how the human brain works in terms of how long it can realistically focus on a given task and be productive.


This makes sense when you think about it. After all, we aren’t machines that can just work endlessly without losing focus – even though it may feel like our bosses treat us that way! A machine works in a linear fashion, but humans need to account for how we move more in cycles. And this brings us to the science of a concept called ultradian rhythm, a cycle that gets repeated throughout a day (as opposed to the better-known circadian rhythm, which is a day-long cycle. The study of these biological rhythms is called chronobiology. Applying this concept to human activity like work, you get to something called BRAC – Basic Rest-Activity Cycle. It mimics what happens when we sleep, which tends to flow in cycles of REM sleep lasting 90 minutes, then 20 minutes of non-REM sleep. The idea is that your brain will do best if it only tries to focus on a given task for 90 minutes and then takes a 20-minute break. That’s the basic cycle, although there can be variation from person to person. But the idea of plowing through a ton of work without stopping simply isn’t the best approach to productivity.


There are plenty of variations on this basic theme, such as the Pomodoro Technique developed by Francesco Cirillo back in the late 1980s. Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato. When Cirillo discovered the benefits of working in chunks separated by short breaks, he used a kitchen timer in the shape of a tomato. He found that if he worked for 25 minutes and then took a five-minute break, he was able to focus better, accomplish more, and producer higher-quality work. Each 25-minute chunk of work is called a pomodoro. Every four pomodoros you take a longer break, more like 20-30 minutes. When you find yourself working and you are interrupted or distracted by the thought of some other task you need or want to do, you just jot it down, which signals your brain to let it go so you can get back to work. Your brain knows you have a written list of these other things, so it doesn’t have to keep bringing up again and again, interrupting your flow of work.


Another variation is the 52-17 approach. This was recently discovered when DeskTime studied its own data. It’s a real-time automatic time-tracking app that analyzes your productivity. Crunching its own data revealed that its most productive app users tend to work for 52 minutes and then take a 17-minute break. This feels a bit random, but it’s what their data says. And they looked at a LOT of data. Their app collects 5.5 million records every day. And when they isolated the top 10% for productivity, this 52-17 work pattern is what emerged.


Whether you go for 90/20, 25/5 or 52/17, the basic takeaway is that productivity depends on taking surprisingly frequent short breaks. But it’s also important to make them quality breaks. You have to really get away from the task you were working on in order to come back refreshed and ready for the next chunk of focused work. The best thing is to get up and move around, but anything that gets you totally away from the work is what’s essential.


Back to the Three Day Work Week

It would not surprise me to find out that the people who have managed to arrange their lives based on a three day work week probably do their work in these kinds of cycles. After all, making a living working only three days in a week would require being highly productive. But, as I mentioned earlier, the three day work week is NOT coming to a workplace near you any time soon. The people who have achieved it tend to be self-employed and have built up a reputation and charge rates for their services that allow them to only have to work those three days each week to make all the money they need for their lifestyle. Good for them! For the rest of who will not be achieving a three day work week in the near future, we can at least make our work much more productive by following the advice to take regular breaks!

The benefits of better workforce management leave tracking seem obvious to the companies who have adopted a good web-based SaaS (software-as-a-service) solution. It’s hard for them to even remember how they used to handle employee leave management through paper forms and spreadsheets. It may have only been in the last several years that they made the transition to a digital solution, but they already can’t imagine doing it any other way. If your company has not yet modernized its leave management practices with better tools, then it’s time to take a deeper dive into many advantages of better workforce management leave tracking.


Reduce Wasted Time with Better Workforce Management Leave Tracking

Everyone knows that employees waste time at work. In many cases, the distractions of mobile devices, social media and the Internet are the main culprits, as noted by Forbes back in 2015. An employee leave management system won’t help you address that kind of wasted time, but it can reduce the amount of time wasted on inefficient methods of tracking and managing employee leave. Do your company’s workers have to fill out paper forms to put in a request for time off? Filling out and processing time off requests manually should be a thing of the past because it wastes valuable time that could be saved when it is easily done online.


Business success in the 21st century is much easier when you have vital data at your fingertips. How easy would it be for you to put together a report showing the impact of each kind of employee leave on your company’s bottom line? If you haven’t transitioned to a web-based leaving management system, you could be looking at a whole day or more of work just to assemble a report to present the data in a way that can inform business decision-making. Does that sound like the way a business can succeed in the modern digital age? Of course not! You need essential data available as close to real-time as possible in order to be both agile and nimble in managing your company. This is exactly what the right web-based leave tracking system brings to the table.


Accomplish More with Better Workforce Management Leave Tracking

Now think about what can be accomplished by freeing up the time currently wasted through an outdated leave management system. You can probably think of at least a dozen different initiatives and projects that are have been waiting in the wings to get started. With more efficient leave tracking, you can start moving those projects to the front burner instead of letting them languish on the back burner where they’ve been for who knows how long. The people who are charged with managing employee leave time will be forever grateful for the opportunity to focus on more substantive tasks that make a real difference to the company. All that just from the simple adoption of the right web-based leave management system – it’s a no-brainer step towards operational efficiency your company should take sooner than later.


Why Companies Resist Better Workforce Management Leave Tracking

Most companies don’t actively resist the transition to a better leave management system. It’s more of a passive neglect than anything else. Inertia sets in for any number of reasons. Even though a company’s leave management methods may be woefully outdated and inefficient, there is a familiarity with the way things have always been done that can be difficult to overcome in spite of the clear benefits of a more modern system. In addition, when you go online and see that there are dozens of options, the task of finding the right one can seem daunting, and therefore is easily ignored. The problem with this rationalization is that there are step-by-step guides for how to go about identifying and choosing good software solutions. There is no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to improving your company’s operational efficiency.


Without Better Workforce Management Leave Tracking, Absenteeism is Costly

Unexpected absences will always be an issue in terms of the bottom-line impacts of lost productivity and stalled projects. But what if there are patterns of absenteeism you aren’t catching because you don’t have the right data in the right format at your fingertips? If your leave management system is outdated and inefficient, you’re missing out on the opportunity to get actionable insights for better workforce management. Imagine your company proactively addressing absenteeism issues instead of just putting out fires when a crisis occurs. The right leave management system can do that for you.


If your company is ready for better workforce management leave tracking, then it’s time to take a close look at CaptureWork. Employee leave management is just one of its five main feature areas. Also included are employee scheduling, time clock management, training, and HR document handling. CaptureWork is your ticket to workforce management made easy!