Two years ago, Lasse Rheingans started an experiment: he paid a full salary to the employees of his Bielefeld IT agency - even if they only worked 25 instead of 40 hours a week. It went so well that his 15 employees kept the five-hour day. But can this also work in other companies? Rheingans, 38, is convinced: It works. Last week, his book "The 5 Hour Revolution" was published.
ZEIT ONLINE: What does a working day look like in your company?
Rheingans: At 8 o'clock we start, at 13 o'clock is usually closing time. To make it work, the work at point eight starts right here. Correct means: concentrated and quiet. In the past, most of the office was still running some Spotify playlist. That does not exist today. We also cut meetings from an hour to a quarter of an hour - which is usually enough if you omit the small talk and have a clear agenda. We also agreed to check e-mails only twice a day. We want to avoid any unnecessary distraction in the form of notifications or pop-up messages.
ZEIT ONLINE: Also Kaffeeklatsch and too many smoker breaks are not seen with you at work so gladly. It sounds like the five-hour day is only at the price of strict rules.
Rheingans: Of course we have rules and write them over and over again. Our efficient workflow only works if everyone in the team is really behind it. More important than rules, however, are self-responsibility and self-discipline.
Lasse Rheingans, 38, has been managing director of the IT agency Digital Enabler since 2017. Previously, he was co-managing director of the agency u + i interact and taught for several years as a lecturer at the Fachhochschule des Mittelstands Bielefeld. © Nils Hendrik Müller
ZEIT ONLINE: You answered our interview request shortly before 11 pm on Friday night. How does it fit together?
Rheingans: That you are addressing me is a bit mean. But you are right. I had to learn how to be self-disciplined as a boss - and my team advised me to live what I expect. Meanwhile, I do it like this: Until 1pm I'm in the office like everyone else, then I take time for press inquiries and other projects.
ZEIT ONLINE: The model "less work at the same pay" was initially planned in 2017 as an experiment. Why did you continue?
Rheingans: I called the five-hour day an experiment mainly because I was afraid that the project would fly to my ears. I wanted to keep open a way out, if it does not work out. But we still have orders and are profitable. On top of that, the media project has made such waves that I had the feeling that we have created something that employees and employers find exciting - and it does not hurt to pursue it further.
ZEIT ONLINE: Was the conversion really painless?
Rheingans: During the experimentation phase I was not on the notice that the team culture could suffer if we work as short and efficiently as possible. A team develops not only through joint work, but also through personal exchange. It quickly became clear to us that we need team events if the model is to work. Every Friday after work there is a cooking club and occasionally joint events to exchange ideas about topics that are not relevant to work.