Thoughts about hr and management in the real world – extra information I couldn't fit in my books!.
We’re down in Spain for a couple of months to avoid the cold in France!
One thing that I really, really, really like about Spain is their hours of work.
People work from around 9am until 2pm and then again from 5pm to 8pm.
In that gap in the middle of the day people go home from work for 2 – 3 hours for long lunches and siesta, and kids go home from school. Then everyone gets back to it around 4 or 5pm and work through to 7 or 8pm, when they have dinner and enjoy their evening.
This suits me and Fraser much better than French working hours which are extremely regimented. In France you start earlier, have lunch between 12pm and 1.30pm (restaurants often close at 1.30pm so if you haven’t eaten by then, it is ALL over for you) and then finish at 5pm.
But living between these two quite different working hours cultures made me realise something (which I will get to in a minute).
Currently there’s a lot of talk about flexible working. Research is saying that people would like to work from home or work flexibly some of the week, and then in the office a couple of days. Companies on the other hand seem to be saying that it’s all or nothing. Come into the office EVERY DAY or work from home EVERY DAY. I’m not sure how they think that’s going to engage people or be productive.
The days of traditional management is over. Managers now need to focus on outputs. Why does it matter whether the work done to deliver was done in an office, or at home at 8pm when the kids are in bed? But besides, that I feel like something important is being missed.
We have daylight saving, yet we don’t adjust our working hours for summer or winter.
For me in summer, I tend to sleep less and wake up early. Starting work early, having a short lunch and finishing early so that you can have dinner outside and enjoy the evening works really well. In winter it can be really hard getting up in the dark, so starting later, then having a couple of hours for lunch where you get out in the sun (because not having any access to sun in winter can cause all sort of negatives) and working late as it’s going to be dark anyway when you leave work makes much more sense.
I’ve read about a few lone companies trying summer hours. Some research has shown that we’re less productive at work in summer (around 20% less productive) with projects taking 13% longer to complete as employees aren’t very focused. Workers can tend to be 45% more distracted during summer too. Summer hours are more flexible or reduced hours so people can get out and enjoy the summer weather. You could have a scheme where you bank extra hours in winter to take in summer?
But it that’s not practical, then I’m wondering if it’s time companies start thinking about having different core hours of work in summer vs winter.
Has anyone tried this? I’d love to hear about any examples.
As for us, Spanish hours just feel so right. We work in the morning, have a lovely long lunch sitting in the sun (yes even in February it’s warm enough here to sit outside!!) and perhaps a short siesta, and then have a really productive couple of hours from 5pm to 7pm. It’s the Spanish way!
Angela Atkins is the co-founder of Elephant Group who now operate in NZ, Australia, the UK, Canada and the US. She is the author of the Bites series of books and the Management Bites training programme. She now lives in the south west of France, but spends winters in Spain!