In the 2020 workplace, we must minimize distractions to maximize our time and overall productivity.

We’ve all heard the saying time is money, but as many employers and HR directors have witnessed, an employee’s time can be used in vastly different ways.

One hour of work for employee A could equate to three hours of work for employee B for the same project, even when employee A turns out better quality work in less time.

As roughly 51 percent of employees report being disengaged or actively disengaged at work, workforce absenteeism is costing U.S. companies around $550 billion a year in lost revenue.

In the 21st century, we live in a world full of distractions, stressors and vastly changing technology that has never existed before, placing our 40,000-year-old brain into new and unforeseen territory. Are we surprised that employee engagement has decreased as a result of this change?

The standard eight-hour workday resulted from Henry Ford’s efforts to attract better workers to his Ford Motor Co., eventually paving the way for unions to demand changes in how business was conducted during the Industrial Revolution. While the eight-hour day has been the set standard over the last century, the workplace has vastly changed since those times.

Is it possible for an employee to put in an eight-hour workday by working fewer hours with greater prioritization of time and focused effort?

After looking at the data, all signs point to a resounding yes.

According to McKinsey and Co., the average business professional spends 28 percent of their workday checking e-mail and answering messages, which can amount to nearly 2.6 hours per day, and roughly 120 messages exchanged between correspondents. Since email is the lifeblood of communication between businesses and their customers, these statistics may seem difficult to change, but they aren’t.

The average employee checks their email 15 times a day, which is alarming, considering it takes an estimated 23 minutes and 15 seconds to reach the appropriate level of resumed concentration to return to the previous state of work. Taking these statistics into consideration, it makes sense why some people struggle to put in an eight- to 10-hour day with few results to show.

Even more alarming is the fact that the average amount of time someone spends on a given task without being interrupted is about 3 minutes and 5 seconds, which decreases to 2 minutes and 11 seconds when using an electronic device such as a computer or phone. Interruptions are bound to happen at work, especially for those stuck in a managerial position, yet 44 percent of the interruptions that occur throughout the day are self-induced.

In the 2020 workplace, we must minimize distractions to maximize our time and overall productivity. And what if we don’t need a 40-hour workweek to achieve maximal results?

In 2019, Microsoft Japan implemented a four-day workweek “Work-Life Choice Challenge” to test a new model of workplace efficiency, which showed some very promising preliminary findings. Their data showed a 40 percent increase in workers’ productivity, with a 23 percent drop in electricity costs and a 60 percent drop in the amount of paper being printed, all while providing a three-day weekend.

Although these outcomes are still in the early stages of adoption, they show promising results and further support the notion that time is relative to the focused efforts placed onto it. And as Parkinson’s Law states, work expands to fill the time allotted.

Limiting the amount of time spent on a project may have the potential to increase performance and productivity vastly, pending that the work performed isn’t truly constricted based on time (i.e., baking goods, laboratory testing, etc.).

These factors are vitally important because they all support many underlying principles held in cognitive neuropsychology and behavioral economics. The recurring trait that all of these statistics hold in common is that they all deal with people.

In order to truly maximize our business outcomes, we must help our employees maximize their brainpower and subsequent use of time. Working smarter doesn’t mean we have to work harder. We merely need to utilize the power of time management to minimize distractions and help our employees optimize their brain to maximize their results.

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