I know, I know, the title seems rather bold a claim. But…
In today’s work-heavy society, working long hours and even doing double shifts has become a sad norm. This has led to a slew of work stress related illnesses such as overfatigue, depression, obesity and even lifestyle diseases, among others, stroke and cancer. Companies are even reporting more losses due to employee absenteeism (in some cases, hostility) and human errors caused by lack of sleep and bad stress (Yes, there’s a healthy dose of stress that can drive you to perform and there’s just plain bad stress that can sap the life out of you.) In the recent years however, there has been growing attention to looking at alternatives to hopefully alleviate the situation. One of those alternatives, and currently being debated, is the shortening of the work week but lengthening the work-day in effect. I for one believes that shortening the work week and lengthening the working hours in a day might just do the trick. But I believe that a little tweaking will be needed to come up with a better, and hopefully, a more effective and efficient alternative. Before going there, let’s first explore the proposed option.
Yes, at first glance it may seem beneficial, not to mention economical, to both employees and employers alike to adopt such a move. But common sense says, it can actually potentially do more harm than good. It is beneficial because a four-day workweek would also mean a three-day weekend. Imagine that, a three-day weekend all left for employees to enjoy. Just imagine all the hours employees could spend with family members and loved ones (which is currently not available with the existing system), all the leisure activities they could pursue, and all the hobbies and skills they could start to pick up and gain to become better employees come the next workweek. And if you think of it, it’s like having a vacation every week. And who doesn’t like vacations? (And I will revisit this point on “vacations” later.) People look forward to them every year. And to have them every week, that means were up to something really great. Not only that, a four-day work week could significantly lessen cases of road rage. Why? Because it would mean less time on the road where lots of hours (and even money spent on gas) spent on driving and being stuck in traffic.
So, down the road, instead of seeing grumpy and sleep-deprived workers, we might see employees skipping their way to work, humming or whistling a song or two, and even giddily greeting their co-workers and joyously going about their day’s work. You’ll have employees so eager and exuberant from a three-day weekend, rejuvenated and refreshed. They’re coming up with all sorts of creative ideas on how to better your company, you don’t even ask them for one, and you don’t even have to hire consultants. How’s that for a happy economy? That’s not only hitting two birds but a lot of birds with one stone. That also means we’re making real, more positive and real, gains for our society.
But we need to cut this little “daydream” short for the mean time. Because again, instead of working for us, it might just do otherwise. Yes, four days can spell the difference but what about the lengthened workday just to compensate for the lost day in a five-day workweek? The better alternative is to, yes, shortening the workweek into four but still retain, and (I would even dare say) also shorten the work hours in a day to a seven, even six, or even five, or more boldly, 4 hours a day. Why the audacity for such a proposal? Because of Parkinson’s Law. (‘Wait, what Law? Isn’t that name of a disorder?’ you might think but, ha, close but no cigar.) If you’re familiar with the Pareto Principle or the 80/20, 20/80 Principle, then you’re not such a bad case. What the Law holds is that, the less amount of time you have in order to do something, the faster you will finish/accomplish it, plus with better, if not superior, results. Put another way, the time to accomplish a provided task is lengthened or shortened depending on the timeframe allotted for it. Picking up on the vacation example I said I was going to touch on, remember the times when you have a lot of things on your plate, but vacation is coming near and viola, you go on turbo, beast work mode and you finish all the things you’ve been dilly-dallying at work in record speed? Why? So that you have all your vacation time all for yourself. Yes, that’s one of the mysteries of the human mind.
Translated to your workday, a task in the office that can actually be accomplished in 2-3 hours is done in 8 hours because it’s an 8-hour workday. You know what that means. A LOT of wasted time, energy, money, and resources. Productivity is watered down and motivation and momentum goes the drain to the tune of the 8-hour workday. In reality, those 2-4 hours of rockstar employee, in-the-zone work, true productive hours is what we need. Squeezing all those creative and productive powers in a concentrated, packed, and sustained hour/s of work, and we’ll be accomplishing and reaching real results while wasting less. And let’s not even get started on the things we can save by wasting less. First one obvious beneficiary. Clue, it’s about the environment, global warming, gas emission, energy consumption and all that stuff. And at the end of the day, well get better results in a shorter amount of time. That is what it’s all about, results.
Given the shorthand workday, employees won’t have to while away time just waiting for the 3-5:00 end of work bell. Employees will really learn how to be efficient and effective in the use of their time, energy and resources at work knowing how rewarding the tradeoffs are–shorter workday, shorter work-week, steady income, happy body, happy family, happy life overall.
Just imagine all those possibilities.
Won’t you agree they’re do-able and worthy to be pursued?
And while I claim that I’m no expert, I know that those countries/cities that are adapting to this shift as early as now will have results to show for it. And I’m confident that future data will only strengthen the ideal results that we have explored (no matter how shallow) here.
But if proven otherwise, then is what I can think of, like everything else, good in paper, difficult on reality. But more importantly, as always, we humans are just in the habit of screwing all things beautiful and ideal.