Why I can’t go back to 9–5 — The impact of the 6-hour workday on a new parent.
In 2018, we decided to challenge the 9 to 5 workday at Collective Campus and launched an experiment; the 9 to 3 workday. Given the successful outcomes of the experiment, the 6-hour workday has become the norm for our organisation. At the time. there was so much interest in the concept that our CEO was asked to put forward the case for the 6 hour workday for Harvard Business Review. Even Microsoft experimented recently with the traditional workday in Japan — trialling the 4 day work week.
I was recently asked to provide input on my experience for the TED original podcast, “Worklife with Adam Grant”. In particular, how the 6-hour workday impacted my experience of being a new dad. To set some context, my daughter was only a few months old when we started 6-hour workdays. After taking some time to consider the impact, I captured my observations prior to the 6-hour workday, after implementing the 6-hour workday and the overall impact on my life.
Prior to starting the 6-hour workday
Prior to starting the 6-hour workday, I would be at work for about 9.5 hours (8:30 am to 6 pm). The problem I faced, one that many corporates encounter, is that even though I would hit a productivity wall at about 3 pm some days, I would still stay at work till 6 pm.
What would I be doing during those three hours?
- Meetings with colleagues that were not required
- Engaging in conversations around the ‘water cooler’
- Formatting slides in PowerPoint (eg. moving boxes around, trying to align things etc.)
- Grabbing a second coffee for the day (one that I didn't need)
As an employee, I would feel bound to the hours that were deemed acceptable.
After implementing the 6-hour workday
Switching to a 6-hour workday was not easy. I had to adjust a mindset that was built over the last 10 years in the corporate world. Moving to a 6-hour workday was a game-changer for me. Here are the key takeaways:
- More focused work — I would get into flow regularly and structure my days more effectively knowing that I was working within a tighter timeframe.
- Smarter with time — I started to plan my workday in the morning and use 30min blocks between 9 am and 3 pm to focus on the key things I needed to complete. My aim was to complete my big-ticket tasks early in the day.
- Protective of my time — Given I had only 6 hours each day, I would be much more selective about the meetings I had and the length of those meetings. I borrowed the philosophy of Naval Ravikant, “Meetings should be phone calls, phone calls should be emails, and phone calls should be texts”.
- Happiness — I started to feel happier and more content at the end of each workday than I had ever felt after the completion of a traditional workday.
- Energy — The shorter day helped maintain my energy levels throughout the day. This energy translated into my work and discussions with colleagues/clients.
- Outcomes — I found that I got just as much work done (if not more) than the normal workday.
Impact on a new parent
For those that have recently become a new parent or remember the feeling, there is a lot of unknown. Things change all the time and standard workday hours simply aren’t practical.
The 6-hour workday has created a sense of excitement for me knowing that I can be productive at work and then go home to spend quality time with my family.
Lots of my friends work typical corporate jobs and rarely see their children during the week (Note: pre-COVID 19). I always wanted to make a conscious effort to be there for my daughter in her early years and this working model allows me to do that. The 6-hour workday allows me to spend valuable time with my daughter (when she is awake!!) and this increased happiness from the home has translated to a better mood and mindset when I am working.
It has been found that about six in ten dads say they spend too little time with their children — this is mostly due to work commitments. Best selling author Ryan Holiday highlighted the importance of sharing moments with your children on the Rich Roll podcast,
“You think that writing a bestselling book or making a lot of money will make you feel good and whole; that’s the big lie we all believe… My walk in the morning with my son, THAT’S what wholeness feels like.”
The 6-hour workday has allowed me to create memories with my daughter that I will cherish forever. If you are a new parent and have the opportunity to work hours that challenge the traditional model, take that opportunity with both hands.