Paying workers full wages for working fewer days: Planet Money: NPR

Workers rejoice

UK companies are about to wind up biggest experience From four working days a week at all, anywhere in the world. The program’s thesis was provocative: For six months, these companies will cut their workers’ hours by 20 percent, to a 32-hour week, but continue to pay them 100 percent.

Charlotte Lockhart, Founder four days a weekThe organization behind the pilot program says company leaders usually have a gut reaction when they hear the idea of ​​cutting hours without cutting wages. Something like, “This will never work in my business. This will never work in my industry. This will never work in my country. This will never work in the world.”

Fortunately, I found 73 companies to try. They include financial firms, recruiters, consultants, healthcare companies and even a fish and chip shop (this is Britain, after all). And although study data has not yet been released, anecdotal feedback from these companies appears to be positive. 86 percent said completely most probably Continue the four-day workweek policy. Same pay for less time on the job? Register with us!

Workplace reconfiguration

From the moment the five-day week was adopted as the industry standard, about a century ago, we’ve been talking about spending less time at work. John Maynard Keynes declared in the early 1930s that advances in technology would reduce the work week to 15 hours within a century. A U.S. Senate subcommittee doubled down on this in 1965, projecting that we’ll only work 14 hours by the year 2000.

But, over the past few years, the idea of ​​shortening the work week has been given a new impetus by the pandemic, which has thrown workplaces into disarray. This created a unique opportunity for reformers like Charlotte Lockhart. “The opportunity we have here is to completely remake the workplace,” she says. To get companies to use the holy grail of increased productivity as a lure. This is a particularly baffling lure for companies in the UK, where productivity has languished for more than a decade and where, she says, workers work an average of only three hours a day.

“There is clear evidence around the world that if you reduce working time, you increase productivity,” she says, pointing to findings from studies in IcelandAnd the New ZealandUnited kingdom, Belgium And the Japan.

The data produced by these studies tend to be little squishyThere aren’t many hard numbers that allow readers to measure productivity gains or losses in physical terms. But managers and workers generally reported being equally or more productive in a short week. They reported an improvement in health and Public interest, as well as reduce stress and fatigue. One big finding was that people who work fewer hours per week tend to get more sleep, which almost everyone in the scientific community agrees on. The key to productivity.

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Laura Giurge, professor of behavioral sciences who studies wellbeing at the University of Michigan Oxford university and the London School of Economics, say happier and better-rested workers are likely to be more productive, and less likely to be overworked or upset. An abbreviated week can increase productivity in other ways. “It forces people to prioritize better and really focus on completing their core work,” she says. “It’s like removing trivial tasks or tasks that seem important but aren’t.” She points out that companies often waste resources by keeping employees idle between meetings and tasks. “Not only do these idle hours distract employees – and thus productivity – but they can also cost companies up to $100 billion a year in lost wages,” she adds.

A shorter week can also go a long way in addressing one of the biggest bottlenecks in a company’s productivity: Employees taking time off to go to the doctor or recover from an illness. Giurge quotes research conducted in the United States and estimates that five to eight percent of annual healthcare costs are related to and possibly attributable to workplace stressors such as long working hours. And what about Britain? “We know that one in four of our workforce in the UK is not working productively because they have a workplace or mental health problem,” says Charlotte Lockhart. The UK has lost nearly 8 million working days since Workplace stress and fatigue per year. That means losing about $43 billion from the economy because I had a sick day.”

Less is more

Esme Terry from The Digital Future at the Center for Action Research In the UK it is widely agreed that, for most people, long working days and weeks impair productivity. But she’s not entirely convinced the way to go is a four-day work week. For one thing, there is some disagreement During what a four-day week actually means. “There are many different models called four days a week.” indicate. “For example, some organizations have condensed hours, so the number of hours they work hasn’t really been reduced. It’s condensed into fewer days with extended hours during those days.” This is a model that can increase stress and fatigue, rather than reduce it.

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Terry says there is also some question about how the four-day work week might fit into the total workforce because of the difference in the way people work in different types of jobs. She points to the difference between cognitive work and physical work as an example. “The work week for one of these employees is very different from another employee in terms of its productivity,” she says. “Knowing you work at an advertising agency, for example, where your employer directs you about five days a week, nine to five, because they’re going to have meetings and pay you to be around so they can use you, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being productive while you’re at That space. Whereas if you’re a delivery driver for Amazon, every moment you’re working, you’re being productive.”

She also points out that, ironically, while the four-day work week saves workers time, it is also a limitation, which may not work for many people. “Workers have different preferences; different ways of working,” she says. “Some people like to have set hours that work; very specific hours. They know exactly what they’re doing when they do it, and they find it productive. Others like to be able to work when they feel most productive. And it may not be in their core hours.”

One size does not fit all

Her caution was reflected in a small, very random poll that NPR ran on the streets of London recently. All the British workers we spoke to said they liked the idea of ​​more time off, but all expressed skepticism that the four-day week model would fit so easily into their sectors. They also raised the question of whether a week with fewer working hours would benefit the type of workers that make up increasingly part of the British workforce.

“You talk about the differences between the knowledge economy and the platform and movement economies,” Terry says. “The business is risky, people generally lack security and are self-employed in most cases. They are associated with a company but technically they work for themselves.” Given that the corporate trend is generally for companies to hire workers on more exploitative terms, rather than reducing hours for the same wages, it seems like a hard sell.

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What Terry says the workplace really needs — along with the workers who work in it — is to become more flexible. That might mean four days a week for some workers, while others might want to stick to five days, or even stretch it out to six or seven, but work shorter shifts during those days. The point, she adds, is that there is no single formula for increasing productivity (let alone well-being). To make employees truly productive, employers need to adopt a variety of workplace models.

“If employers could be less directive about working hours and potentially put more trust in their employees to manage their own working time, that could potentially have benefits,” she says.

Managers trust their workers? It wouldn’t just be a paraphrase; More like a re-imagining. But like Nicola Bloom from Stanford University Greg Rosalski told us recentlyWe may be making that dream come true for now, thanks to the pandemic and the widespread shift to remote work that businesses have been forced to adopt.

“Many of the companies I’ve talked about have discovered that you have to use output management to manage remote workers, which means strengthening HR systems, which means more training, more 360 ​​reviews, more performance reviews,” Blum says. “If you’re an employee, that’s good news for you because they mean your boss, instead of saying you should be chained to your desk 50 hours a week in these strict times, they’re just saying, ‘Get your report in, make sales numbers, hit your targets’.” And kind of manage yourself.”

And once you manage yourself, of course, you decide whether to work four hours a day for five days a week, or eight hours for three days. Or even – fantasize! – There are no days at all.

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