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Is the 6 hour work week around the corner?

25 May

Why do we 8 hours or more a day? Because we always have done!

Why have we always done? I think Henry Ford came up with it!

Why did Henry think 8 hours was best? He wanted to give his workers free time to realize they needed to buy stuff.

Was it not something scientific that he had based on improving worker health and wellbeing? Not really but Ford thought “It is high time to rid ourselves of the notion that leisure for workmen is either ‘lost time’ or a class privilege.” Henry Ford cut the working week from 6 to 5 days, doubled the wages from $2.34 for a nine-hour day to $5.00 for an eight-hour day and in return gained greater productivity. The results spoke for themselves. Workplaces quickly followed suit maybe not doubling the wages but shortening the working day and week.

Now it seems it is time to question the 8 hour working day. Do we really work for the whole 8 hours or more we are in work? To be honest it’s unlikely. We become our most creative and imaginative when we are looking for outlets that are not work. We spend ages with Dave trying to fix the photo copier feeder when really we have no clue how it works simply because it feels better than working( and it looks like work) . We volunteer to nip to the coffee shop down the road for everyone because it’s a break from work ,something interesting could happen on the way and it is work related so technically it’s work but with more chance of excitement. Many of us would quite happily volunteer to  jump in the car if needed and travel for an hour to deliver a package to the other side of the city  if it was urgent. Tunes on the radio and a new visual landscape . Happy days.

Although for some of us work is engaging and stimulating for many, most of the working day is spent thinking about activities we would rather be doing than sitting at this desk. Or we engage in activities that take us away from that working space in our head, social media updates on our laptop/Phone, online news feeds, emails from friends, researching and booking holidays etc. The truth is for most workers we would rather be somewhere else doing something different.

We could create a workplace like Google with all the benefits of free food , ergonomics and workplace stimuli but that can create burnout and it’s not home. As much as we would like to create positive relationships with our co-workers, they are no replacement for our family(or maybe they are).

Why not create a work environment where people can be their best, play to their strengths and simply go home. Jason Friend of Basecamp is a big proponent of shorter working weeks. “I wanted to do something about this. So, at 37signals, the software company I’ve run for the past 13 years, we take inspiration from the seasons and build change into our work schedule.

For example, from May through October, we switch to a four-day workweek. And not 40 hours crammed into four days, but 32 hours comfortably fit into four days. We don’t work the same amount of time, we work less. When there’s less time to work, you waste less time. When you have a compressed workweek, you tend to focus on what’s important. Constraining time encourages quality time

The Gothenburg experiment with the 6hr working day is trialling at the minute in Svartedalens nursing home in southern Sweden. Early reports are good.An audit published in mid-April concluded that the program in its first year had sharply reduced absenteeism, and improved productivity and worker health. A year’s worth of data from the project, which compares staff at Svartedalens with a control group at a similar facility, showed that 68 nurses who worked six-hour days took half as much sick time as those in the control group. And they were 2.8 times less likely to take any time off in a two-week period. There has been opposition from politicians.“It’s the type of economic thinking that has gotten other countries in Europe into trouble,” said Maria Rydén, Gothenburg’s deputy mayor and a member of the opposition Moderates party. She is leading a campaign to kill the trial, citing high taxpayer costs and arguments that the government should not intrude in the workplace.

We can’t pay people to not work,” she added.

Workers in a nearby Toyota service centre have been working a 6 hour working day for the past 13 years with no plans to reverse it. The benefits to the workers and service centre are too evident. Greater production over 6 hours rather than 8 and more family downtime to do activities in life that make us happier.

Asking your staff what would work for them to become more productive might surprise you. A shorter working week as a trial might not be a bad thing. One Friday a month and see if the world stops turning. Or one week of working 30 hours per month. We are imaginative beings and ultimately flexibility is the key to the future workplace if we want to survive. Use that imagination.

Netflix embraced the flexible workplace years ago.” We should focus on what people get done., not how many hours or days worked. Just as we don’t have a 9-5 policy we don’t need a vacation policy” said Patty MCcord who is feted with creating the culture within Netflix. “There is a no clothing policy at Netflix but no one turns up to work naked.” In 2015 Netflix also announced that all employees would be entitled to unlimited parental leave at their choosing. Can we begin to seesaw trust is becoming a major factor in the new workplaces. Think about this are your best relationships and friendships with people you trust and can communicate well with or with people who you fear and openly distrust. The answer is here.

If you are willing to spend your weekend responding to worker texts and emails be prepared to embrace a shorter, flexible and more productive working week.

I started this article with the 3 Why’s that helps you look at what you do from a more crtical position. So start with this at your next meeting.

Why do we think that a 40 hour week is our only option?







Do you ever feel like this?

29 Apr

Is this your Life?

Who worked less hours the medieval peasant or the 21st century worker?

9 Mar

14th Century worker

Is the 40 hr working week a thing of the past? You would hope so.

Did you know that in the 14th century the average casual labourer worked 1440 hrs a year. OECD figures for 2013 show us that the average UK worker worked 1,669 hours last year with Greece putting in a whopping 2,037 and the Netherlands enjoying a 1380 hr working year. The USA worked 1,788 which possibly could be higher due to the large number of part-time work and multiple jobs held by Statesiders.

Working conditions may have been a lot different in the 14th century  and have been dictated by seasons and weather. Workers at that time also found many reasons to celebrate a high number of seasonal festivals and stop working when they had made enough money. There was no material goods on hand in shops that required excessive need for money.Working hours were shorter and life was celebrated.

Although by the time of the industrial revolution working hours had got out of hand when seasons, lighting and weather did not dictate the amount of work a man could do. By 1840 the average UK worker worked between 3105-3588 hours a year… Gulp!! But luckily for those aged 9-13 yrs old the 1833 Factory Act had limited their working day to a meagre 8 hrs and those aged 14-18 only had to work 12 hours of their day. The 19th century became the period when workers realised that there was more to life than toiling. The first murmurings that changes were on the way came at around the 1840’s. Samuel Duncan Parnell a carpenter by trade in New Zealand “There are twenty-four hours per day,eight of these should be of work,eight for sleep and the remaining eight for recreation and in which men to do what little things they want for themselves

It was really midway through the 20th century that the 8 hr working day became a realisation and law for many countries.With countries like France in 1936 through the Matignon agreements and the US in 1938 through the Fair labour standards Act, the 8 hour day became a changed way of working. Electricity, lighting with mechanical modernisation allowed greater efficiencies and less manual input.

John Maynard Keynes even spoke about the 15 hour working week becoming a possibility by 2030. With giant technological and computerised advancements and a world of automation you would have thought that the 15hr week would have become reality for many as we move through the 21st century. Allowing man to spend time educating himself, developing a greater personal wellbeing and creating communities that benefit everyone. But the rise of consumerism was something that Keynes never foresaw.  Governments unease at having a large number of their population with time to think and possibly… revolt is probably a factor too. To be honest we have not developed societies that know how to cater for mass free time or know how to fund it. With the eventual introduction of Universal basic income we might see a change to this.

In the Netherlands were the average working week is 29 hours and a World Happiness ranking of 4th place it looks like there are benefits to working shorter hours. With 15 years to go until we hit 2030 it looks unlikely that we will hit the 15 hour working week, unless you count the arrival of zero hours contracts which have no benefit to the employee.

My belief that shorter more efficient working weeks benefit everyone. I have written about it on numerous occasions. We should grasp technology and automation and start to develop communities and societies that integrate wellbeing with work. With more emphasise on wellbeing than work.The idea that man is incomplete unless he has employment is a fallacy. We just haven’t thought hard enough about the possibilities we could replace work with. The Medieval worker would have gladly grasped the development of Steam power and machine tools that drove the Industrial revolution but would have baulked at the idea of handing over all their free time and a 150 day working year. A working year that in 2015 many of us would still envy.

Happy @work Lunchtime talk

8 Oct

happiness2 photoHad a great day at Yesterdays lunchtime talk on Happiness at work. An even greater reminder that companies start to trust their employees and start to concentrate on Employee wellbeing. The rewards will be tremendous if companies understand that making your staff feel valued and trusted are the keys to workplace happiness.

Companies who want an insight into how to increase workplace wellbeing and your bottom line would enjoy a lunchtime talk. Bring your sandwiches,bananas and coffee and enjoy a great lunchtime experience.


Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)

20 Sep

All my blog entries are my own. But I found this article by David Cain particularly interesting. I am a strong advocate who questions the benefits of a 40 hour week. I don’t see it as a positive for creativity or productivity. Have a read of this informative article.Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek).

3 day work Week

22 Jul

4 days off

Hang on! this sounds good. Mexican Billionaire Carlos Slim speaking at a conference has advocated a 3 day working week. Three days of 10-11 hour shifts and 4 days to you and your family. Providing greater time to relax and follow activities we enjoy. Even more time to find another job or set up that business venture you might have always wanted to follow.  The downsides might be initially be change of routines and childcare arrangements for some. But the benefits to us and our communities mental and physical wellbeing might be a plus side we only see after years of this in practice.

12 years ago I worked for an organisation that wanted to implement this. The thought of 4 day weekends surfing,partying etc were too exciting for me to think of any other option. I thought that management must have had a conversation with Ricardo Semler. It was too good to pass on. Unfortunately an accumulation of mistrust and issues around changing daily routines put an end to this idea and it was never spoken about again. Maybe it’s time to revisit this conversation.


Can we handle a four day working week?

2 Jul

4 day working weekThe idea of a four-day working week is something that many people have thought of as a  concept that simply couldn’t work because it promotes the idea that somehow leisure time is more beneficial than a hard days work. The notion that every working day has to be hard or it simply doesn’t count is something that we find hard to shake off.

I have read an interesting interview with Prof John Ashton regional director of Public health in North West England in the Guardian. It quite simply states the benefits of a 4 day working week. They as Professor Ashton says are

  • People get to spend more times with their families
  • There is more opportunity for exercise a real contributor to reduced blood pressure and stress.
  • An opportunity to increase employment levels for those struggling with Finding work. Thus adding purpose to an increased number of people’s existence.

“The problem is you have got a proportion of the population who are working too hard and a proportion that don’t have jobs”

“We need a four-day week so that people can enjoy their lives,have much more time with their families and maybe reduce high blood pressure because people might start exercising”

A  YouGov survey discovered that 57% of workers support the idea and 71% think it would make Britain a happier place.

About 10 years ago I worked for another organisation that proposed a 3 day working week. The 3 days would consist of 12 hour working shifts totalling 36 hours Monday to Wednesday. Providing us with Thursday to Sunday as our weekend. The company would save on heating, lighting and other overheads associated with keeping the premises running. The idea never came to fruition many people had childcare issues and others simply had a fear of change. A test run for 6 months may have seen that people are very adaptive and we may have discovered that the wellbeing, health and the home life relationships may have improved dramatically but we were never to find out.

This constant state of stress has us eating our lunch at our desk while observing other people’s lives or crafting our own lives on social media. Answering emails or taking work calls after hours leave us in a state of being constantly on and ultimately trains us to fear being disconnected. Just look at people waiting at bus stops and see how many are texting,talking or surfing rather than happy in their own presence and thoughts. All the former actions ultimately fluctuate our emotions and can trigger stress. It triggers not only addictive highs from adrenaline and endorphin responses from stressed states. It also makes us feel unable to wait alone with our thoughts and observations for the 10 minutes it takes for the bus to arrive.

This begs the question with all our knowledge on the benefits to our health and wellbeing of having an extra day off to ourselves and our family. Who of us will be strong enough not to reply to that company email or phone call from the boss. Will we ever truly be able to fully switch off.

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