Work less, get more
July 18, 2018 5:33 PM   Subscribe

New Zealand firm's four-day week an 'unmitigated success'. Reduced hours for same pay increased work-life balance by 24%, cutting stress levels and boosting commitment.
posted by spaceburglar (27 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sounds nice, but I know I'm not seeing anything like that in my lifetime. I can just imagine the drama that would go off in my job if someone couldn't get a hold of someone 5 days a week.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:19 PM on July 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


Five? I'm expected to respond promptly seven days a week, including the months when I'm not getting paid.
posted by Superplin at 6:49 PM on July 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


I was at a speech by Gwyn Dyer where he pointed out the 40 hour work week was now 100 years old (the idea itself being 200 years old) and it was time for the workweek to be shortened. Wages have been stagnant for decades so it is time to balance them out. When I go shopping the price of cereal stays the same but the package keeps shrinking, time to do that to the work week. I found it interesting that productivity was not explicitly mentioned in the article though.
posted by saucysault at 6:57 PM on July 18, 2018 [16 favorites]


I'm sure for most of us this is a cruel or fantastical article to read. Especially with that photo of people splashing around in a beautiful mountain lake.

People were very happy they were asked to work one less day for the same money? You don't say! I'd be a little more interested to see the results if people were offered a pay cut in return for working less days.
posted by other barry at 7:00 PM on July 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


I'm happy that I found a job that only requires five days a week.
posted by octothorpe at 7:29 PM on July 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


I found it interesting that productivity was not explicitly mentioned in the article though.

I listened to a radio interview yesterday with the CEO/founder of the company. The trial was absolutely about productivity, and flexibility. All measures of productivity for the company were the same or up over the course of the trial. I mean, some of that could be due to the newness/excitement of it, but it seemed that people found ways of improving what they did during the time at work - eg shorter meetings, more focus etc.

By all accounts, this seemed driven by very good intentions and was successful all around. Also to note, employees had choice over how this worked. Some still wanted to work 5 days a week, but say with slightly reduced hours etc.
posted by maupuia at 7:33 PM on July 18, 2018 [20 favorites]


Here's that radio interview.
posted by maupuia at 7:38 PM on July 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


I spent a good part of my career weaseling out of the 24/7 on-call thing...

Truth is, best balance I've seen in the past is 4days x 10hours/day. Same 40 hours, 4 days work, 3 days off. It helped that other staff was 8 hour shifts and the extra hour at the beginning and the extra hour at the end were mostly for catching up and transfer of powers and such.... catch up for one hour, work 8 hours, explain for one hour. That rocked.
posted by zengargoyle at 9:00 PM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


Seems like a great plank for our own favored left of center political party!
posted by notyou at 9:13 PM on July 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


New Zealand is a foreign country, they do things differently there.

(well from where I am anyway)



Oh, and I would totally give up 20 percent of pay to work 20 percent less, you can't make more time.
posted by Pembquist at 10:16 PM on July 18, 2018 [6 favorites]


The responses of people on this thread are why change is hard. If we think positive, humane change can’t happen and our instinctive reaction is to sneer or claim it can never happen, it won’t. We forge our own chains, even if someone else hands us the hammer.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:19 PM on July 18, 2018 [27 favorites]


I found it interesting that productivity was not explicitly mentioned in the article though.

It's easy enough to find, but having been on the intarwebs for 25 years of which 20 in France, I can predict the usual tired refrain of "buuuut it's diiifffereeeeeennt in the US" in spite of y'all sharing entirely identical DNA to the rest of the planet. ("Nooooo but it's diiiiiiffffereeeeeeennnnt" yeah yeah yeah we get it, no one, precisely no one, ever, in the history of humanity, has been so precious and unique and different as in the US. Americans who live overseas included. We automatically and irrevocably become impervious to understanding the States as soon as we leave.)

These Are the Most Productive Countries in the World
The United States ranks fifth, according to the OECD, contributing $68.30 to the country’s GDP per hour worked, countering claims that Americans are the most productive workers in the world. America put in more hours—33.6 per week on average—than all four of the European countries with higher productivity rankings.
posted by fraula at 12:28 AM on July 19, 2018 [21 favorites]


People were very happy they were asked to work one less day for the same money? You don't say!

They were also more productive in the time they were working, so overall there was no drop in productivity for the company. This wasn’t communicated well in the article. But that’s the point - it’s a win for the employees without costing the company anything.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 1:45 AM on July 19, 2018 [8 favorites]


I don’t know about everyone else, but I feel like easily 30-40% of my time at work is unproductive. Very occasionally I’m actually busy all day. A lot of us just use work time for some personal stuff since work tends to intrude on personal time, so your “40 hours” at the office is just for people to see you are working and if anyone needs to talk to you or something (facetime, in other words). In the article they talk about saving personal stuff for the day off so that they minimized non-work Internet time. That alone might save a day. I think this is more than possible for most office workers and cannot imagine we couldn’t be more productive in less time if people were motivated.

At one of my jobs I was insanely busy all the time, but at least 50% of that was internal fire drills created by management who needed a complicated analysis “right now.” It was not necessary or even really desirable for the core deliverable of my job (and probably interfered with the efficiency of money making for the company).

After 20 years in the workplace I have decided that we definitely aren’t doing it the most efficiently, and certainly not for maximum happiness. I just completely don’t buy into most of what makes up office culture in the US. Why not 4 day work weeks? (Once we’ve provided living wages for people, that’s more urgent)
posted by rainydayfilms at 3:31 AM on July 19, 2018 [16 favorites]


I don’t know about everyone else, but I feel like easily 30-40% of my time at work is unproductive.

Well, yeah. Probably more than that for me. I'm reading and responding to MeFi while at work. I've done all kinds of personal research and planning and reading etc. on work time -- granted a majority (but certainly not all) of that is while compiling code or running tests.

That said, I keep getting praise for being "hardworking" and getting stuff done faster than everyone else in my department, so I'm still doing something right I guess.
posted by Foosnark at 5:57 AM on July 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


In my last three jobs I was expected to work 35hrs a week during office hours.

That was despite often spending half the night there as well.

I think I saw more dawns at work than was healthy for anyone.
posted by Burn_IT at 5:58 AM on July 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


Work expands to fill the time allotted.
posted by Automocar at 7:08 AM on July 19, 2018 [8 favorites]


I was a freelance ESL teacher for ten years, and I only worked Monday-Thursday. It was amazing. Partly because of the three-day weekend, but actually a lot of it was the reduction in... I don't know what to call it... that feeling you get on Sunday night/Monday morning where the next day off looks years and years away, the light at the end of a very loooooong, dark tunnel. With a four-day schedule all of a sudden the week was manageable. Get through Monday and you've only got three days left! Get through Tuesday and now it's the last half of your work week.

There were a lot of times that I hated my job, but I kept going back every September because of the four-day work week.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 8:32 AM on July 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


We forge our own chains, even if someone else hands us the hammer.

Seriously. And don't start compromising already — "I'll take it for 20% less pay," etc. How about this, I will work six hours four days a week for a 25% pay bump. Now let's negotiate.
posted by dame at 10:21 AM on July 19, 2018 [6 favorites]


I'm a freelancer in Europe, and I'm lucky enough to have a reasonable amount of control over how much I work.

I did four-day weeks for a couple of years. It was transformative. Then I dropped down to three days a week for a few months. Spending more time on myself than at work was utterly glorious, even though I was making less money.

For the past few months I've been doing five-day weeks again, and I'm absolutely drained. Roll on the summer holidays...
posted by ZipRibbons at 12:03 PM on July 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


From Hadley Freeman's interview with Flight of the Conchords' Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie:

For a while, they lived in the US, but quickly realised it was better to be in Wellington. “In LA, you can get kinda swept up in the industry, like: ‘Oh I’m supposed to be doing this thing,’” says McKenzie. “Then you go home and it’s like …”

“You don’t have to,” says Clement.


When I was a kid, I always thought I was lucky to be born in the United States. And...well, yes, it's not a bad place to start out. Certainly there are worse places. But then I hear about other countries, and feel incredibly jealous I didn't start from there. I'm not just talking about the short work week....but also the willingness to try it out, to consider the benefits of adopting it rather than automatically regarding it with suspicion and contempt.
posted by grandiloquiet at 3:08 PM on July 19, 2018 [6 favorites]


I will work six hours four days a week for a 25% pay bump.

This is important. Days off are expensive! Three day weekends are expensive! I work 4 days a week during the summer, and to be honest don't work all that much anyway, but my expenses are much higher when I have 3 day weekends. I eat out more, do more things that cost money, and generally just spend more.
posted by Literaryhero at 3:25 PM on July 19, 2018


but actually a lot of it was the reduction in... I don't know what to call it... that feeling you get on Sunday night/Monday morning where the next day off looks years and years away, the light at the end of a very loooooong, dark tunnel.

That would be The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.
posted by bassooner at 3:34 PM on July 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


I work 70 hours over the course of two weeks, five days one week, four the next. Never more. My parents also had jobs with clearly-defined hours and were never asked or expected to work outside of them. The one thing all three jobs have in common rhymes with "schmunion."
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:07 PM on July 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


The responses of people on this thread are why change is hard. If we think positive, humane change can’t happen and our instinctive reaction is to sneer or claim it can never happen, it won’t. We forge our own chains, even if someone else hands us the hammer.

I agree with this, but unfortunately the hearts and minds that have to change on this are so far high up above me and so unlikely to agree with the New Zealanders for Reasons that I have to remind myself not to have hopes. My organization won't even fix broken shit in the computer system.

A lot of us just use work time for some personal stuff since work tends to intrude on personal time, so your “40 hours” at the office is just for people to see you are working and if anyone needs to talk to you or something (facetime, in other words).

I call it being "on call."

Days off are expensive! Three day weekends are expensive! I work 4 days a week during the summer, and to be honest don't work all that much anyway, but my expenses are much higher when I have 3 day weekends. I eat out more, do more things that cost money, and generally just spend more.

This is a very good point.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:35 PM on July 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


Three-day Workweeks and Four-day Weekends - "In the early days of the 1956 presidential campaign, U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon envisioned the achievement of a four-day, 32-hour workweek in the 'not too distant future'. Sixty years later, the average workweek in the U.S. for full-time workers was 42.5 hours. Seventy percent of all employed persons worked 40 hours a week or more."

Sandwichman Sunday - "Generous social policy does not stand in opposition to productive work. On the contrary, if well arranged, it is the basis for productive work. To the manager of a firm, cheap labor is a source of productive advantage, but that's a perspective that fails to compose. Economies that offer cheap labor must import external demand. A good economy is composed of workers with time and money to consume, and of firms with strong incentives to innovate, to use dear labor ever more efficiently."

Bullshit jobs and the yoke of managerial feudalism - "It's not exactly that people want to work, it's more that people want to feel they are transforming the world around them in a way that makes some kind a positive difference to other people. In a way, that's what being human is all about. Take it away from them, they start to fall apart."

Why Marx's Capital Still Matters - "One of the big things Marx does suggest is that free time is one of the most emancipatory things we can have. He has a nice phrase: the realm of freedom begins when the realm of necessity is left behind. Imagine a world in which necessities could be taken care of. One or two days a week working, and the rest of the time is free time. Now, we've got all of these labor-saving innovations in the labor process, and also in the household. But if you ask people, do you have more free time than you once had? The answer is, 'no, I have less free time'. We've got to organize all of this so that we actually have as much free time as possible, so that if it's Wednesday at five o'clock, you can go do whatever you want. This is the kind of imagination of a society that Marx has in mind. And it's an obvious idea."
posted by kliuless at 6:39 AM on July 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


There was something recently on the blue (on a train, can't find it) that talked about how corporations have absorbed all the benefits of productivity gains over the last 100 years, that should've gone to the workers. This is simply reclaiming our time.
posted by mabelstreet at 6:08 PM on July 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


« Older Vanilla flavoring comes from *what*?   |   I think that I’m the original, but so do they. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments