PDA

View Full Version : Three/four day weeks / the politics of free time



baboon2004
22-02-2013, 06:08 PM
This kind of follows on from a discussion that we were having on another thread, and the appearance of this article in the Guardian today:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2013/feb/22/four-day-week-less-is-more

So gratifying to see at least some coverage of the idea of getting a saner balance between working and free time. In Britain (and even more so in the US, I presume), even having a public debate about this is encouraging progress.

Some person in the comments mentions this book in connection with the idea of reduced working weeks: http://itself.wordpress.com/2011/04/29/a-recommendation-critique-of-economic-reason-by-andre-gorz/ . Anyone read it?

hucks
22-02-2013, 06:38 PM
I switched to a 4 day week in January, though I'm doing work-ish things with my Fridays (such as posting on dissensus and checking Facebook).

I'm lucky cos I get well paid and my boss is a good guy and I've got no real responsibilities but I absolutely love it. As well as being good in and of itself, it's made a real difference to the other 4 days. Also, given that I no longer work Fridays and don't get paid for them, it seems absurd to work weekends, which i used to on occasion when I had to. So i'm actually getting more than 1 day back.

Not everyone can do it, though, cos their jobs/ bosses won't allow, which is a shame.

Leo
22-02-2013, 06:55 PM
not sure this would fly in the states but one can hope. perhaps the best chance would be if it started in the public sector (to save tax dollars) and then gravitated to the private sector when proven worthwhile.

the whole "get ahead by working hard, putting in 110%" BS is still the dominant work ethic in many industries and professions, and the crap economy/high unemployment have made workers weary of being seen as slackers who aren't serious about their careers. there's also a sense of competition with private sector office coworkers: if lots of other people are staying late, then you feel obligated to do so as well, even if you aren't particularly productive during that time.

i've been self-employed for 10 years and accomplish a lot more work in a lot less time now compared to when i worked in an office. for the most part, i've managed to keep clients happy while rarely working five full days a week.

Mr. Tea
22-02-2013, 07:59 PM
A great idea in principle but for anyone who just about makes enough to live on working five days a week, a 20% cut in income is going mean destitution, isn't it? I mean, if you can arrange it so everyone gets a 20% increase in hourly wages to compensate that that's fine, but even so, I should think a lot of people would carry on working 5/7 days and just enjoy the extra income.

I think a more useful approach would be to look at ways to work more efficiently, not just harder/for longer. Of course this can't be done in a lot of jobs, e.g. most if not all manual jobs, since if you spend less time stacking shelves then you put fewer items on the shelves and that's that. But in other lines of work it would be more useful to remunerate people based on units of useful work done, rather than just hours sat at a desk.

But this has a big problem too, which is that it's often possible to spend days or weeks working on a problem with little show for it ostensibly, and then to have a day or even a few hours where everything comes together you achieve the thing you've been trying to do for ages. Also it doesn't take into account the fact that you can spend ages doing something, and doing it well, only for that work to end up being useless due to factors outside your control.

baboon2004
23-02-2013, 01:54 AM
A great idea in principle but for anyone who just about makes enough to live on working five days a week, a 20% cut in income is going mean destitution, isn't it? I mean, if you can arrange it so everyone gets a 20% increase in hourly wages to compensate that that's fine, but even so, I should think a lot of people would carry on working 5/7 days and just enjoy the extra income.


The last bit doesn't follow, else most people working now in offices would be working six days a week rather than five, if it were just a matter of earning extra income where it was possible. The idea that five days a week = in some way the correct amount of work/life balance has been drummed into several generations since they were children, and it is enforced in a practical sense both by the cost of rent/mortgage payments and the fact that 5 days/35 or 37.5 hours a week is written into most employment contracts. If both these enforcements were altered, then people's habits and expectations would change, and then this would filter down into what most parents taught their children.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workweek_and_weekend interesting milestones in how the five day week came to be predominant. Seems to be a gradual process of cultural change, so I think the fact that this debate is again being had in public is significant, that there might possibly be a change in culture within the next few decades.

Mr. Tea
23-02-2013, 12:54 PM
OK, I guess it would be interesting to conduct a survey and see what %, out of people currently working a 35/40-hour week, would choose to work four days instead of five on the same salary, or stay working five days a week with a 20% pay rise. With stagnating wages and high inflation, I suspect the majority of people would opt for the latter.

But it's all entirely academic unless you can come up with some reason why employers should suddenly give all their staff a 20% pay rise. I mean, if you can, brilliant!

Mr. Tea
23-02-2013, 01:07 PM
This reminds me of a job opportunity an agency contacted me about when I was looking for jobs a couple of years ago. The starting salary was 90k...but the working day was 12 hours long. I mean seriously, what the fuck? The thing is, I'd have jumped at the chance to earn 45k doing a six-hour day! For that matter, 30k doing a four-hour day sounds alright too. And if they did it like that, they could employ far more people. But I guess that's just not how it works.

baboon2004
23-02-2013, 03:18 PM
OK, I guess it would be interesting to conduct a survey and see what %, out of people currently working a 35/40-hour week, would choose to work four days instead of five on the same salary, or stay working five days a week with a 20% pay rise. With stagnating wages and high inflation, I suspect the majority of people would opt for the latter.

But it's all entirely academic unless you can come up with some reason why employers should suddenly give all their staff a 20% pay rise. I mean, if you can, brilliant!

I agree that would be interesting, although to me the availability of a realistic choice is the thing. If some people want to work more to accumulate more cash in order to buy more things, let them, but let others be able to choose to work four days a week within a society where this does not mean you cannot make a decent living, and where working five days is not often necessary in order to simply survive. It's certainly not because most people are so unbelievably productive over five days, that 'full-time' = five days of seven/7.5 hours; it's not that they could never do the same amount of work in four days. Anyone who has ever worked in an office knows very well how much time at work most people waste. So why is a working week five days long, when the amount of actual work hours done are so often so few? And why does one not have the option to do all one's work for the week and then go home when it's finished, even if that happens to be Weds afternoon? Because, I suppose, everyone knows the whole thing is a sham, but no-one can say it/act on it without fearing for a massive pay cut. It keeps people in a permanent state of infancy, through fear.

Unpicking some of the most deep-rooted dogmas within our society is of course incredibly difficult, but a starting point is to look at how people conceive of this thing called work, within the context of the single life they are ever going to have. The ideology of work that people are encouraged to have is quasi-religious - to take just one example, 'hard-working' is seen as a positive adjective, which is obviously ridiculous without even asking what it is that one is doing / the idea that work is of itself good for society is unbelievably noxious - and very rarely interrogated. Without deconstructing this at first, it's difficult to get very far. Why do human beings acquiesce with a system where they spend so long doing tasks that are often extraordinarily banal and often very pointless, and which generate so much anger? Which can perhaps most obviously be seen in the vitriol that so many working people reserve for the unemployed, and for badly-treated workers trying to improve their conditions etc etc. So much of it is essentially saying 'I suffer, so why shouldnt' you?!'

I think it's possible to imagine a better society in the future (which of course may never practically happen) which would look at 20th/21st century work practices and ask, from outside of these dogmas, 'why did these people dislike themselves so much...?'

baboon2004
23-02-2013, 03:28 PM
This reminds me of a job opportunity an agency contacted me about when I was looking for jobs a couple of years ago. The starting salary was 90k...but the working day was 12 hours long. I mean seriously, what the fuck? The thing is, I'd have jumped at the chance to earn 45k doing a six-hour day! For that matter, 30k doing a four-hour day sounds alright too. And if they did it like that, they could employ far more people. But I guess that's just not how it works.

i think you've hit the nail on the head here. WHY is it not how it works? What bizarre, negative, crazy, anti-employment dogma is being adhered to here?

@Hucks and Leo - what area of work are you guys each in,out of interest?

Leo
23-02-2013, 05:39 PM
i think you've hit the nail on the head here. WHY is it not how it works? What bizarre, negative, crazy, anti-employment dogma is being adhered to here?

@Hucks and Leo - what area of work are you guys each in,out of interest?

perhaps one reason (here in the states, anyway) is employee benefits: companies would rather pay health insurance/pension for one employee instead of two or three. although there are federal guidelines where companies don't have to pay benefits if employees work below a certain number of hours.

re: my career, i do PR/corporate communications/copywriting (executive speeches, bylined articles, etc.) you know, the type of thing we all (myself included) make fun of here. :) believe me, i am totally aware of the utterly stupid profession i stumbled into, so much for that journalism degree!

luka
23-02-2013, 10:36 PM
i work 4 days a week but still do 40 hrs

Mr. Tea
23-02-2013, 10:37 PM
i work 4 days a week but still do 40 hrs

Do you like that better than having it spread over five days?

luka
23-02-2013, 10:41 PM
its a lot lot better yes

hucks
24-02-2013, 11:59 AM
i think you've hit the nail on the head here. WHY is it not how it works? What bizarre, negative, crazy, anti-employment dogma is being adhered to here?

@Hucks and Leo - what area of work are you guys each in,out of interest?

I'm a researcher. All the work I do is contract stuff, so we just put me in for x days or whatever when we're costing it. It means that I don't have to do 5 days' work in 4 to make it possible. I do 4 days and get paid for 4 days.

baboon2004
28-02-2013, 12:20 PM
Interesting stuff guys, thanks.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/feb/28/cancel-apocalypse-andrew-simms-review this looks of interest, from someone who works at the New Economics Foundation

Mr. Tea
08-03-2013, 09:37 AM
So many people here take a day off every week for the purposes of being a daddy that it's a bit of a pain when I need to talk to someone on a Friday and no fucker is actually here. :mad:

craner
08-03-2013, 11:08 AM
As Confucius said, "choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life."

luka
08-03-2013, 11:40 AM
easy for him to say.

luka
08-03-2013, 11:41 AM
ive been trying to get a job as an itinerant sage for years

Mr. Tea
08-03-2013, 12:10 PM
ive been trying to get a job as an itinerant sage for years

There's a lot of competition.

Slothrop
08-03-2013, 12:46 PM
perhaps one reason (here in the states, anyway) is employee benefits: companies would rather pay health insurance/pension for one employee instead of two or three.
There is a bit of that: a firm giving everyone a 20% cut in take-home pay and an extra day a week off doesn't neccessarily mean they can afford to employ proporionately more people.

I can also see a few fundamental practical issues - eg it'd be much harder to get everyone together in a meeting if people are off on random days, you'd have a load of dead space at desks - and quite a lot of things that would take a general cultural shift to make it work - eg companies actually expecting 4 days work a week rather than expecting five days of work to be done in four days, clients getting used to the idea that you might not be able to get in touch with Steve on wednesdays no matter how urgent it is.

But it is something that I think would make life better for a lot of people (albeit almost exclusively middle class people) and I can see it coming in by degrees - eg I've heard of a few people getting a four day week basically by being good enough techies that the company will make an exception for them to stop them leaving. I can see it becoming more common by degrees from that basis, particularly if / when the economy picks up and companies start having to compete for good staff more.

Mr. Tea
08-03-2013, 02:06 PM
There is a bit of that: a firm giving everyone a 20% cut in take-home pay and an extra day a week off doesn't neccessarily mean they can afford to employ proporionately more people.

I can also see a few fundamental practical issues - eg it'd be much harder to get everyone together in a meeting if people are off on random days....

Well yeah.

So many people here take a day off every week for the purposes of being a daddy that it's a bit of a pain when I need to talk to someone on a Friday and no fucker is actually here. :mad:


But it is something that I think would make life better for a lot of people (albeit almost exclusively middle class people)

As I think I said earlier, it depends wholly on the kind of work you do. With lots of jobs you're either doing it or you're not, you can't really do it any more or less 'efficiently' than you're doing it already. It also doesn't apply to anything that involves dealing with 'customers' - or lets say, people who receive some service (patients, pupils...) - which is probably most jobs in a service-based economy. To say nothing of the fact that people in low-wage jobs already would be screwed with a 20% pay cut.

craner
08-03-2013, 03:02 PM
As Coco Chanel said, "There is no time for cut-and-dried monotony. There is time for work. And time for love. That leaves no other time."

Mr. Tea
08-03-2013, 03:29 PM
More quotes plz.

baboon2004
08-03-2013, 04:00 PM
"Coco Chanel 'was a Nazi agent during Second World War' "

Apparently. Was it work or love though?

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work ... I want to achieve immortality through not dying. Woody Allen.

Mr. Tea
08-03-2013, 09:24 PM
"I have nothing to declare except that I'm a big gay smart-arse" - Oscar Wilde