What’s ailing productivity?
It’s not just the constant interruptions. Long workweeks aren’t helping either.
By Katya Hodge
Dr. Linda Duxbury’s data is clear: more time at work equals a rise in stress, an increase in workload, and a significant decrease in mental health. And she should know. In the last decade, the professor at the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University has completed major studies on balancing work and family in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. All of her studies have shown that people are more productive and much happier when they have more control
Ann Max, a productivity expert with Productive to the Max, an Ottawa consulting firm, also talks about the benefits of a condensed 4-10 (4 days, 10 hours a day) workweek: “It’s really been proven that when you concentrate your time into those four days there’s a lot of more energy, there’s a lot more collaboration, there’s a lot more productivity and there is a lot more time for people to meet for research and things like that.”
Still, it’s hard to imagine law firms buying into the four–day workweek. “It is an hours-driven market where your billable hours equal productivity,” explains Dr. Duxbury. “The culture of law expects you to be available 24/7, but it is an outdated model that creates a lot of stress for the lawyers, and that stress ends up costing companies lots of money.” That’s money she thinks could be put to better use to address work–life balance for employees.
In 2011, the Quebec government launched a unique corporate certification program for companies providing work–life balance benefits to employees. Four progressive levels of certification can be attained, and companies can display an official government logo for promotional purposes. Some of the programs the government is encouraging include telework, condensed work weeks, flexible work schedules and onsite child care.
In the U.S., Utah experimented with a four–day week for most state employees to reduce energy costs. It has been deemed a success; 82 per cent of workers say they would like to keep the new 4–10 schedule.
So with a generation of employees putting life outside of work at the top of their priority list, Dr. Duxbury warns that big law firms will need to change if they don’t want to lose out in the battle to attract the best talent; the younger generation will start their own boutique law firms, pursue not-for-profit career tracks, or look for government work in search of good work–life balance.
And while most law firms still cling to heavy billable requirements and demand long hours of their lawyers, progressive firms such as Delegatus in Montreal, Cognition LLP in Toronto and Steven Virgins in Vancouver (winner of CBA-BC’s 2011 Work–Life Balance award) already recognize the changing demands in the labour market and offer opportunities to lawyers who want flexibility in determining their workweek.
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