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OM in the News: A New Concept–The “Firm 40” Workweek

October 20, 2015
Employees at United Shore stream out at closing time

Employees at United Shore stream out at closing time

At exactly 6 p.m. on any given weekday, the exodus begins at United Shore Financial Services in Troy, Mich. By 6:05, the parking lot of the mortgage lender is pretty much empty. United Shore is among a group of small firms trying a radical management idea notable for just how un-radical it is: a 40-hour workweek, writes The Wall Street Journal (Oct.14, 2015). Leaders say the “firm 40” makes employees more efficient by forcing them to focus on work while they are in the office—and unplug fully when they leave.

United Shore’s CEO demands his 1,350 employees work hard—he likes to remind staffers that 5:55 p.m. on a Friday is no different from 10:55 a.m. on a Tuesday—taking no breaks for Facebook or online shopping. But once the day is done, employees are off duty until the next morning. A finite workday feels increasingly rare for many U.S. workers, for whom the lines between work and home have blurred in recent years. The “work-life integration” policies touted by some companies enable people to head out early for personal needs, so long as they monitor emails late into the night.

“Workers need time to recover from work,” says a Stanford U. prof. whose research found that employees who put in too many hours in a week or work too many days in a row become less productive over time, with output per hour falling as workers put in more than 48 hours during a given week. People say they are working longer these days, but the truth is murky. A recent survey found that about half of managers said they work more than 40 hours a week, and 39% reported that their hours have increased in the past 5 years. Professionals tend to remember their most hectic weeks as typical. “We all think we’re working around the clock,” adds one time-study expert.

Classroom discussion questions:

  1. Why do so many managers think they are working long hours?
  2. What happens in a manufacturing facility when workers have consistent overtime?
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