I found myself having read a fascinating article about CEO and author Stephan Aarstol and how he moved his company to a 5-hr work day. As I read, I thought, “Wait, these are the same benefits I extol about microlearning!” In fact, this article by e-learningindustry.com has an excellent summary upon which I’ve based this post.

First, I’ll start with a couple of definitions:

Microlearning is “a way of teaching and delivering content to learners in small, very specific bursts. The learners are in control of what and when they’re learning.” (e-learningindustry.com, July 6, 2014)

In an interview with Inc.com, Stephan Aarstol defined his company’s 5-hour workday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day. He talks about the expectation of productivity being “baked-in” to the workday when there are fewer hours. When hours went down, the results went up. Read the full article here.


5 Productivity Secrets Shared by the 5-Hr Work Day and MicrolearningProductivity benefits of microlearning

Less Seat-Time, more ROI

“The big lie of the knowledge-working world is that we are really doing eight hours of work in our eight-hour days. The truth is we’re doing about two-three hours of real work, just taking eight hours to do it.” Stephan Aarstol in his interview with Inc.com

5-hr work day – Having less time creates higher periods of focus. Aarstol found that the Pareto Principle applies to our work days as well. It’s a myth that we spend 8+ hours a day in productive focus. Cutting away the expectations of face time as work time means we get more effort, and higher return, for the work we do. Employees are free to spend the rest of the day doing errands, pursuing sport, hobbies, and more.

Microlearning – There is a similar expectation of focus from microlearning. With one objective for each learning deliverable, students intensify their efforts toward a specific goal. In turn, they are expected to demonstrate their mastery of that objective immediately and not at the end of semester final or end of the day feedback form. Assessment is baked into the learning experience for higher returns.

Consistency and Flexibility

Consistency and flexibility can seem like mismatched socks in a drawer. For a shorter work day and microlearning to work, however, we have to approach people as people and not machines.

5-hr work day – After a brief trial period, Aarstol made the 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. the consistent working hours of his company. He provided the productivity tools they needed to accomplish their work in a concentrated amount of time, and the program is expected of everyone, not on a volunteer basis like at Amazon. When needed, the company or an individual has the flexibility to work more hours for a short period of time toward a specific goal. These bursts are expected to be the exception and not the rule.

Microlearning – Learning modules must be designed with some consistency so students become comfortable with the delivery and environment. Once students learn the norms for the learning environment, they can fit their skill development in where it is most impactful for them. With mobile learning platforms like SkillFitness, employees accomplish their training goals a bite at a time: waiting for an appointment, on a break, before their kid’s practice, or waiting for a repair at home.

Empowerment Through Self-Management

“Allowing learners to self-manage their training by “pulling” information as they need it, rather than “pushing” toward them what you think they require, can build empowerment and shift attitudes toward training.” Ruby Spencer for an article in e-learningindustry.com

5-hr work day – Aarstol’s main point on this benefit is that knowledge work is about managing energy. Happy employees have more energy and focus. Employee’s relationships, health, and passions are given time to improve. All that energy feeds into the business results they bring.

Microlearning – Adult learners have experience and they are goal driven. With microlearning, they have the opportunity to choose the learning objectives that will help them accomplish their goals as they need them. With the ability to manage their professional development comes the motivation improve.

Far-reaching new policies and microlearning have one other thing in common – without strong leadership and design, they are bound to fall short of expectations.

What processes and policies have you tried to get more out of less? Share in the comments and we’ll learn together.


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