How a 5-Hour Workday Improves Retail Businesses
Retail registers rang in 2016 — a lot. And if research done by Moody Analytics is to be believed, that surge is expected to continue. Helped by an anticipated bump in GDP, core retail sales could rise by 5.4 percent in the next 12 months, while the average hourly salary for retail employees could increase by 3 percent in 2017.
Large retailers like Wal-Mart have already announced wage jumps for their employees, meaning owners of smaller chains and companies might want to take notice. But how do retail owners account for potential salary bumps without sacrificing their bottom line?
Exploring a more streamlined work schedule would be a start.
Why a 5-Hour Workday Registers
The 40-hour workweek is a bit misleading. In fact, a 2014 study by Gallup states that the average American actually devotes about 47 hours over a five-day work period.
Before my venture into the standup paddleboard game, I was on that same track. My poker chip company had me putting in 40-hour workweeks, which seemed exorbitant and ripe for a change. So, through some alteration, I managed to drop that weekly investment down 70 percent to just 12 hours without sacrificing any productivity.
I carried the same mind-set over to my paddleboard company, asking myself how I could maintain optimal efficiency without the typical 40-hour weekly commitment. And that’s how the five-hour workday was born.
It began as a trial run: We informed our entire staff that for three months, we’d be experimenting with a new work schedule. At 8 a.m., we’d come into work and hit the ground running with no lunch break, and then clock out for the day at 1 p.m.
For our retail workers, the switch to a five-hour block required somewhat of a mental leap, but not enough that it ate into business. Just as every sector did, our retail division adjusted its internal operations to compensate. Customer foot traffic stayed steady — and even picked up at times as we conditioned buyers to adjust to our new store hours.
Introducing a truncated deadline into retail workflow can present challenges at first, but doing so forces employees to put their energy toward the tasks that need them the most. In turn, this inspires them to create a fuller experience for the customer.
Work Smart, Not Hard
Creating a faster, more efficient workflow won’t just happen overnight. For retail owners trying to get their employees on board with the five-hour workday, some struggles will occur, but it’s important to highlight specific aspects.
Here are three things business owners should prioritize in helping their employees make a smooth transition to the five-hour workday schedule:
1. Log your labor. When a hole first reveals itself, the natural instinct is to see where the leak originates. Think of trimming the fat off your workday in the same way. If the goal is to get faster, see where any perceived waste goes.
I subscribe to the Pareto Principle, which figures that we spend 80 percent of our productive input toward 20 percent of our output. Linking that to productivity, I challenged employees to find the tasks eating most of their time, track them, and then find ways to minimize that investment without sacrificing results.
Push your employees to do the same. If stocking shelves, taking inventory or balancing the books requires much of their time, task them with monitoring how long each one takes, and then ask them to identify where the process can be expedited.
2. Use technology. The emergence of machinery, artificial intelligence and other innovations is welcome, though some fear their respective advancements could render humans useless in the workforce. But think of it like this: Where would retail be without the cash register?
Make technology an asset, not an adversary. Use it to track productivity and quicken in-store activities. ShipStation software nipped our tracking process down from a couple of minutes to a matter of seconds, allowing employees to focus their attention elsewhere.
Research what tools would help speed up the process for workers, then implement them into the workflow. It could be something as simple as a faster price checker or as complex as a new computer system. Either way, if it allows employees to move between tasks quicker, it will be a sound investment.
3. Establish individual baselines. As enticing as a shorter workday may be to some, it won’t be for everyone. It’s be important to express to employees that while this is a baseline you’d like them to work toward, it won’t always work.
Twenty-five hours a week might not be enough for some workers to accomplish everything they intend. Let them know that’s OK. The more comfortable people are in their workflow, the better their output will be.
As retail jobs become more coveted, owners will need to equip workers with a protocol and mind-set to spark efficiency. Give employees the freedom to incorporate a five-hour strategy into their daily work routine. It could be just the thing to help your business bask in the predicted retail upswing.
Stephan Aarstol is the author of the widely acclaimed book “The Five Hour Workday: Live Differently, Unlock Productivity, and Find Happiness."