Work Week Woe is ME!


USA Today

The philosophy of the work week has come up more than one while g-chatting with Allie, coincidentally while we're both sitting at our desks at work.  When living in a metropolitan city like New York City, the biggest city in America, industry and business seem to make the world go round.

Before the industrial revolution, the typical work week lasted six days, leaving the seventh day (Sabbath/Sunday) for rest.  Six day work weeks were integral for the days when agriculture was the Industry.  Laborious long hours were determined by the sun as mother nature always needed attending to.  It wasn't until the industrial revolution and the creation of unions that the work week became standardized.

Maria Konnikova writes a fascinating article, Why Not a Three-Day Week?, for The New Yorker stating that it wasn't until 1926, when Henry Ford proposed a five-day work week so his workers could receive a two day weekend for the same amount of pay that the standard 5 days on, two days off became the norm.

janet-exploreresearch.blogspot

However, competition in the free market created a new breed of human: workaholics.

 Workaholics from every industry work long hours to get work done and usually not for a salary increase.  For doctors, lawyers, financial brokers, bankers and creative industries, weeks surpass the traditional 40 hours.  Timesheets spread upwards of 50, 60, 80 plus hours, leaving employees with less time to keep their personal lives in order and enjoy the stress-free leisure side of life.

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Since I work in a creative industry, my timesheets are part of that bucket that long surpasses 40 hours a week.  Although I'm grateful for having a full time job in New York City that allows me to be financially independent and supports my individual lifestyle when you do the math and realize you're spending most of your time at work, more time with your coworkers than your own home and family, it starts to feel overdone and frustrating.  You no longer have time for the simple things, like laundry, time to see your old friend who's in town, or to plant the herbal garden you've been dreaming about.


Life.Time.com

It is routinely "another day another dollar," but what if we made that dollar cost even more by eliminating some of the days?

Working in management for my agency has taught me that if everyone worked a little bit more productively and possibly a few hours longer each day we could potentially work four days a week and have a three day weekend!  This idea was proved to work this summer when my agency implemented summer hours.  Summer hours allowed for each employee to take up to four Fridays off and allow for a three day weekend between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

 Many businesses in NYC have half day Fridays every day during the summer.  Having these three day weekends left me feeling refreshed and ready to be production by the time Monday rolled around, instead of feeling rundown and stressed about every aspect of my life.

Daniel Skarlicki, an organizational psychologist, explains that when studying non-union employees the more days they worked without feeling like they're getting paid enough can lead to negative energy in the work place.

New York Times

Konnikova points out that in 1930, John Maynard Keynes' philosophy predicted that because of the potent combination of technology and capital people would no longer have to worry about basic problems of survival, leaving the average human with ample free time.  Sounds good to me!

 Unfortunately, the opposite seemed to have happened.  Nowadays with the advances of technology we can't get away from work,  even on weekends we are expencted to be on stand-by to answer emails and phone calls leaving us with less and less free time.

Recently, Mexican mogul Carlos Slim proposed a three day work week promoting more productive and healthier employees.  The trade off?  Working longer hours during those three days and continuing work into your seventies.  The benefit? Gaining time to find your own way and do all the things you never found time to do like getting more sleep and doing production things for yourself or your home.  In turn, maybe we all will be physically capable of working into our seventies!

More countries have already adopted this method of a shorter work week in exchange for more productive work days.  The Netherlands, Germany and Norway take the cake for the shortest working hours, while South Korea, China and Greece have some of the worlds longest work hours.  In 2013 Forbes ranked Norway as the happiest country in the world.  Could their standard low working hours have something to do with this?  I think it's too good to be just a coincidence.

Americans could learn something from these statistics and at the very least reexamine what makes the most sense.  If it was up to me I would be in transit to Norway already.  Or France, just this year they passed a law that would effectively stop the work day at six o'clock.  Making it illegal to work after six, c'est la vie!
-Stephanie

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