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Author Topic: The time has come to seriously consider a 4-day workweek  (Read 2045 times)

Jay Sadie

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The time has come to seriously consider a 4-day workweek
« on: October 17, 2011, 07:50:59 AM »

There has been much talk about implementing a 4-day workweek over the past 5 decades. When computers became a force to be reckoned with, not so long ago as you might think, there were many who proposed that computers would take over most of the work we as humans have to do and that because of that we would be able to work less and less.

However, I personally think that computers have not reduced workload, but to the contrary have actually increased it. Humans may be a lot more productive now because of computers, as computers are not doing our work for us, but rather has given us a valuable tool to be far more productive than before.

The reason we have not reduced our working hours is because of one simple, yet extremely important force of economics, namely competition.  If everyone agreed to work less, basically evening the playing field, then this system would work. However, if some people offer to work for 5 days instead of 4, the 5-dayers would be favoured by employers.

This same principal can be applied to where both spouses in a marriage have income generating jobs. There was a time when only one spouse worked, again not so long ago as you might think. Usually the man in the family was the breadwinner. Women used to stay at home to be homemakers or “housewives” as commonly referred to in those days. This is a fact and I am not suggesting that this is the way it should be. What eventually happened was that as more and more “housewives” entered the workforce, more and more families had to join this trend. If you did not do so you were soon making less money than the couple next door who had the benefit of two incomes. At the end of the day the financial success of a family depends on the total household income, and not that of an individual income generator.

In a way we are completely at the mercy of economic forces and principals. In a capitalistic society the market drives everything, i.e. the cost of goods, how much you get paid, etc. If your neighbour, or competition, is willing to do more for less, while still providing the same exact service or product, your neighbour will get the job or sale. That is how a free market system works.

Traditional 4-day workweek approach

The idea of a shorter work week is not a new one. Most of the debate and proposals around a 4-day workweek has been focusing on changing five 8-hour workdays to four 10-hour workdays, which still amounts to a 40-hour week.

Vive la difference

I propose changing to a 32-hour 4-day workweek. This is a major difference compared to most other suggestions. Personally I feel that productivity goes down after 8 hours. Making the workdays longer is actually counter-productive. We need a radical change, and merely spreading the 5th day’s hours to the remaining 4 days is just not practical. Why not just work two 20-hour days? Simply put, it is not practical and/or sustainable. Employees will fall asleep at work. Ten hours is a long stretch. If we’re going to make a change then let’s go all the way. Cut the fifth day out completely... all 8 hours of it.

Why a 32-hour 4-day workweek?

There are numerous reasons why this will benefit all of us:
  • Increased Productivity – A rested person can be far more productive than one who is over-worked and tired. If you have a certain amount of work to do in a week you can do so with better planning and time management. No need to ”fill” the hours. There will be a higher sense of urgency to achieve the same amount of work per week as before.
  • Decreased Costs – Less travel to work. Maybe even reduced medical costs due to stress-related ailments. A happier person is far healthier, which is a medical fact.
  • Economic Growth – When people have an extra day per week, it directly translates to more spending. When you’re at work
    you cannot spend money. This may be the silver spoon to solve our current economic crisis. It will kick-start a new growth, one that is desperately needed. If people do not spend money there is no system that will overcome this dilemma. Money needs to be fluid. It needs constant flow. Otherwise it stagnates, which is what is happening in the world today.

Experiments, Research & Proposals

There have been a quite a number of experiments and proposals regarding this subject. You can read more about them here:

You'll notice that the above articles all mention 10-hour workdays.

Why did some of the 4-day workweek experiments fail?

Well, mainly because of reduced service levels. People did not like the fact that they could not get vital services on a Friday, for instance.

How to solve the problem

The solution is actually very simple. Do not decrease service levels... increase them. At first this may make no sense, but it is totally doable. The secret is in flexible work schedules. Instead of everyone working from 9 to 5, have some working from 6 to 2, 7 to 3, 8 to 4, 9 to 5, 10 to 6. If you do this then you have effectively increased your hours of operation from 9-5 to 6-6, i.e. from 8 hours to 12 hours. That is a 50% increase in your service levels. So, instead of unhappy customers, and unhappy employees, everyone is happy. Not to mention the reduced stress levels. Happier employees will provide better service.

While increasing the daily operating hours, also increase the days of operation from 5 days to 7 days. Just because we have a 4-day workweek does not mean everyone has to work the same 4 days. Spread the days amongst the employees so there are always employees on the job. Some will get Fridays to Sundays off, some will get Saturdays to Mondays off, some Sundays to Tuesdays, some Thursdays to Saturdays... you get the picture. Also rotate these days off so that everyone gets a chance to have “normal” weekends.

In order to do this a company may have to increase its workforce by a small percentage, i.e. 5 to 10%, which will be good for solving the current jobless situation. In the short term this will add a small strain on the economy, but on the medium to long term this will strengthen and stabilize the world economy.

In order to do more with less people, the employees will have to be more productive. I believe that this is achievable if employees are given an extra day per week to do with as they please. It will give a new meaning to the term “Work hard, Play hard.”

Summary

In order for a 4-day workweek to work, major agreement will have to be reached by all employers across all sectors of industry. Government will also have to play a vital role in ensuring its success. Tax breaks and incentives will work far better than enforcing it by law and/or regulations. As the world’s population grows we may not have a choice but to implement a 4-day work week. It will spread the jobs more evenly amongst the ever increasing demand for jobs.
« Last Edit: October 17, 2011, 07:59:25 AM by Jay Sadie »
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"I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success." - Nikola Tesla
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