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The German company has been working five hours a day since 2017

For the sake of efficiency, banned smartphones and social networks. The employees have the same tasks and the same salaries, and sometimes you still have to linger. The owner of the small German consulting company Rheingans Digital Enabler, Lasse Reingans, told The Wall Street Journal about the results of an experiment to reduce the working […]

For the sake of efficiency, banned smartphones and social networks.
The employees have the same tasks and the same salaries, and sometimes you still have to linger.

The owner of the small German consulting company Rheingans Digital Enabler, Lasse Reingans, told The Wall Street Journal about the results of an experiment to reduce the working day from eight to five hours. He launched it at the end of 2017, immediately after the purchase of the company.

Rheingans Digital Enabler develops websites, applications and e-commerce platforms. The company employs 16 people. As part of the experiment, everyone had the same salaries and vacations.

Employees start working at 8 in the morning and can leave already at 13:00. To maintain effectiveness, Rainingans decided to eliminate distractions and introduced several new rules:

  • Small talk during working hours is not welcome.
  • Social networks in the office are blocked.
  • Employees should keep their phones in their bags.
  • Email is checked only twice a day.
  • Most meetings and negotiations should take no longer than 15 minutes.

We all went through this: sitting in the office without energy, leafing through Facebook or online publications, supposedly to rest and recharge. But no recharging took place.

My idea is to focus in the first five hours, and then leave for a real break.

Lasse Reingans
Managing Director, Rheingans Digital Enabler
Rainingans claims that with a 25-hour workweek the company managed to work as efficiently as it did with a 40-hour workweek. According to him, Rheingans Digital Enabler ended the year 2018 with a profit, and employees from this schedule became only happier.

Lasse Reingans The Wall Street Journal
Rheingans Digital Enabler employees told WSJ that there were problems with the switch to a five-hour schedule. For example, they feel the pressure of the deadlines more strongly because of the need to do the same work in five hours as in eight. In addition, they had to adapt to the fact that they should not correspond or call up friends and family during the working day.

Sometimes employees still have to linger, because the company’s customers work eight hours. “We can’t always say to the client:“ Hey, it’s already one o’clock in the afternoon, see you tomorrow. But many are sympathetic, and some even asked if we have vacancies for them, ”said project manager Yana Burdakh.

On the other hand, the workers got time for hobbies and relatives. So, the 25-year-old marketing assistant Lucas da Costa was able to start painting portraits again and began to play basketball more often with friends. “When you work until the evening, you want to come home to lie on the sofa and lie down,” he recalls.

Lasse Reingans began looking for new workflow concepts before buying Digital Enabler. At a previous company, he had agreed to cut his salary in exchange for two extra days off a week to spend more time with his children.

A few months later, Raingans demanded to restore the old salary, because he performed the same amount of work as in the “five-day”. His partners agreed, although they did not hide that their approach was annoying.

Rainingans borrowed a five-hour workday model from the startup of Tower Paddle Boards from San Diego, which switched to such a schedule in 2015. The CEO of Tower Paddle Boards Stefan Aarstol introduced a five-hour working day, because he felt guilty about having finished earlier than his subordinates.

Aarstol told WSJ that at first the experiment was successful, but two years later the head of the company left a five-hour schedule only for the summer period. “We have lost our startup spirit. The life of employees outside of work has become much better, but this has affected their enthusiasm, ”he explained.

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