Working 8 Till 3, Time For A New Norm?

A few weeks ago a colleague at Happy Melly shared an article with our team, adding the word ‘LOL’.

Click here to view original article Spain Debates: Is It Time To Scrap The Siesta?

I live in Spain, and am since long, since way before moving to Spain, a fan of siestas. I can’t recall when I started taking them, but regardless of country or language (nap, dutje, siesta) I take my opportunities. I’m not talking about an hour’s worth of sleep during the day, rather what people would call ‘power naps’ 15-20 minutes down and out. Fair to note is that I’m lucky to have the ability to fall asleep very quickly, and thus really feel I benefit from 15-20 minutes of rest. You can imagine that the message to scrap that wasn’t that much Laughing Out Loud to me…

Out of curiosity I read the article which makes some good points.

The origin is a statement of Spain’s acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy claiming it’s time for a change. “I will find a consensus to make sure the working day ends at 6 p.m.,” Rajoy told a party conference […] in Seville.

[…] explain the importance of the siesta to Spaniards. But he says most Spaniards simply don’t take one. They run errands, have lunch or work straight through their mid-afternoon break, but are still expected to work late, too, and thus don’t get home until 8 or 9 p.m.

Polls show most Spaniards would prefer to work a 9-to-5 schedule. […]

It is interesting how the foreign press covers the topic, while the Spanish newspapers basically only react on the headlines from the foreign press with little national coverage of the original statement itself.

Even the BBC publishes on the topic…

Many Spaniards were glad to hear acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announce proposals recently to end the normal working day at 6pm, rather than 7pm or later. It spells the end of the two-hour afternoon siesta – but this has long tormented parents balancing work with the needs of their family, writes James Badcock in Madrid.

And then gives a very typical example of work life in Spain:

“The medical supplies company where her partner works insists on employees working from 9am in the morning to 7pm at night – the classic Spanish office timetable which includes a two-hour lunch break from 2pm to 4pm.

As it takes him an hour to travel between home and the office, he doesn’t have time to enjoy the once-traditional home-cooked meal and a nap at lunchtime – and he only gets home at 8pm, Matarranz says.

“Very rarely do they let him work from home. People at school don’t believe our children has a father – he has never picked them up or attended any events.”

In a country where unemployment stands at 21%, it can be hard to ask for concessions from an employer, which is why campaigners such as Jose Luis Casero want incentives to be introduced to make companies change their hours.”

So far so good, though you might wonder by now why I’m writing about this. Why a political statement on a blog targeting Company Culture, Engagement and Happiness articles?

Well I wasn’t planning at all to write about this, until a friend on Facebook responded to my post Great Corporate Cultures, Will Wall Street Allow Them? pointing me to a post in El Pais {One of the large Spanish Newspapers} of December 2014!

The article is in Spanish, but the title translates to “The happiness of working from 8 till 3”.

Quick step back to the article on BBC… remember, the person referred to in the example given leaves at 8am and if lucky is back home at 8pm. And Spain’s acting Prime Ministers wants to target a normal day from 9-to-5. So who are the lucky ones and why are they happy?

Freely translated from the article (if you want to read the actual story in spanish, use the above link)

Tuesday. 15:00 o’clock sharp. Thousands of people start to leave from an office in the outskirts of Madrid. It looks like the start of the lunch break; in reality, they are finished working. It is not a bank holiday nor a special Christmas work time schedule. In this office it is the norm. It happens every day since 2008. In that year Iberdrola (one of Spain’s largest utility companies) agreed with its workforce, some 9.000 workers, to universalize intensive working days: 7.15 to 14.50 work, with 45 minutes flexibility to enter or leave every day of the year (note that there are companies in Spain working with ‘intensive working hours’… only in the summer time). “The measure could benefit workers and was good for the company,” says Ramón Castresana, head of human resources of the company. Six years later, Castresana, who was at the forefront of that change, defends the decision with figures: “We have improved productivity and gained more than half a million annual working hours. We have reduced absenteeism by 20% and 15% industrial accidents“. Despite those numbers and although the brewer Damm has just started a similar program, the electricity company remains an exception in Spain in the private sector.

And what do the people say?

[…] if your day finishes at three, even if you then finish up something, you still leave early. […] Knowing that you have time for yourself, changes your perspectives. I come to work happier and calmer.” “If employees are happier, they work more without realizing it”, adds Castresana.

[] “They allow us to adapt the schedule to our lives,” she says. Workers control their time, and that gives them a sense of freedom. […] The opinion that this model should be extended to other companies, “I think that many people would work better that way.”

I don’t believe governments should interfere with company working hours (or my siesta). I don’t believe governments should offer (big) incentives to change hours (that will only lead to cheating the system). I believe governments should facilitate such changes to happen. Market what is happening in Iberdrola to other companies, be their country’s change agents. The only true change will happen if companies understand the benefits and are willing to take time to see results. Positive changes in their results AND their Employee Happiness.

Ah… and as for that siesta… I wouldn’t mind leaving at 15:30…


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