The 4 Day Week / 30 Hours Challenge

The Four Day Week & Thirty Hour Challenge

Has The World Of Work Really Moved On?

I was recently reading an article on my FlipBoard feed about a group of politicians including the former UK shadow chancellor John McDonnel suggesting that a four day week would help deal with the economic fallout from the Covid19 pandemic.

My initial reaction was that a reduction in working time would be great so long as everyone also agreed to take a reduction in pay to avoid mass bankruptcies among businesses and devastation of the economy but then it got me thinking.

I’m old enough to remember the 1970’s all too well when we were told that as a result of technology we would all be working tiny numbers of hours or maybe not at all and our biggest problem would be what should we do with all the leisure time that would be created?

1970’s Robots Coming To Save Us From The Boredom Of Work

In reality I look around and see nearly everyone I know working more hours than ever, suffering from stress and burn out and struggling to get everything done in a forty, fifty, sixty or even more hours week. The response to the old question of “how are you” is increasingly unrelated to physical wellbeing but expressed in terms of trauma. “Busy” and “Run Off My Feet” and other derivatives of these terms are now the standard. Working the sort of hours that a nineteenth century industrial baron would have expected of his disposable workforce has become the norm again especially in certain industries.  Many people see the number of hours they work as a badge of honour and a measure of their worth on this planet. I certainly have in the past.

So my thoughts took me took the age old question “Why?”

Well, I believe there are only four possible answers:

  1. We all love work so much we want to do it over and above everything else. This is true in some cases but not for the majority of people.
  2. We are all earning huge amounts of money in comparison to the 1970’s and every year our real income increases. There is some truth in this for some people but for most of us we are not rolling around in cash wondering where to spend it next. Even many of those who are drowning in money complain about being cash rich and time poor.
  3. Businesses are massively exploiting their workforce. If they have someone who is contracted to work thirty-seven and a half or forty hours per week who is actually working fifty or sixty hours then they are saving the need to employ a second person and that salary saving goes straight to the bottom line. Whilst super profits are apparent in some industries if you had to increase the wage bill of many businesses by fifty to one hundred percent to reflect the true cost of their workforce they would very quickly go out of business.

Workers In The 1930’s

Then there is the forth possibility. That as a result of all of our time saving technology we have become increasingly inefficient and ineffective and that our useful output per hour has actually decreased rather than increased. Work has expanded to fill the time available and I believe this to be one of the main reasons.


Workers in 2020 – Is It So Different Now?

A quick check of how I spent my time over the last couple of months confirmed my worse fears. I am guilty of not one but all four of the above with the forth one being the worse. I should point out at this point with regard to number three I am both the employer and the employee and so I am actually exploiting myself!!!!

For many people, myself included, a four day week is not necessarily the answer as some weeks I am involved in projects that need to spread over at least five days. If this is the case then surely the four day week is but a dream? The answer may well be yes but what about a thirty hour week?

Reducing the number of hours worked is easy – you just work less. In fact you could get it to zero immediately by just not getting out of bed. Unfortunately, be careful what you wish for. This would also reduce the income  to below acceptable levels and disaster would quickly follow. The objective should be as follows:

Reduce the working week to four days or thirty hours and increase the effective nature of that work to enable the objectives of the organisation to be achieved. This has to be possible due to the availability of technology as outlined above and by the use of effective working practices.

Covid19  has been a disaster for many people  but for the rest of us it has presented an opportunity to think again about how we work.

Who else fancies the four day week / thirty hours challenge?

If you want to look at this further we have both manufacturing and service simulations to enable everyone to be more effective then please contact us for details.

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View From The Bee Hive

Bees operate in a highly effective way. They work only to achieve the ultimate objective of the hive which is well understood. In his book “The 4-Hour Work Week” Tim Ferriss uses the phrase “work for work’s sake”. Bees do not do any of that and we shouldn’t either.

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