The Good Old 9-5
The 40 hour work week has been a staple in our society for as long as we can remember. In that time, we have made so many technological advancements that some people are starting to question the practicality of working 9-5, 5 days a week. Even Google co-founder Larry Page thinks people shouldn’t have to work as much.
Something is nagging at me, telling me that there is just something off about the system we’ve been cemented in to. During the industrial revolution, the work week was decreased from 10 hour shifts, to 8 hour shifts. This was caused by the increasing efficiency of workers due to technology, and the realization of what will come to be known as Parkinson’s Law. Long story short, Parkinson’s Law states: the more time someone has to do something, the more time it will take them. This has been proven in a couple of studies.
I have recently been employed by a firm for a full-time accounting position. As much as I love rush hour traffic and next-to-no personal time, I feel like simple changes could increase the productivity and general well-being of employees across the board. With performance enhancing technology such as dual monitors, Microsoft excel, and accounting software, I could walk into the office, punch out everything I need to do in 4 hours, then walk out and enjoy the rest of my day (effectively using the firm’s resources while I’m at it). However, seeing as I’m forced to be here for 8 hours, I tend to spread my work out (maybe even write a blog or two).
That’s not where it ends. With everybody coming and going to work at the same time, traffic congestion (and me wanting to pull my hair out) soon follows. If everybody came to work when they were needed, or just did their work at home, people, governments and the planet would greatly benefit.
Technological Revolution > Industrial Revolution
The only reason that this shortened work week is even feasible in this day and age is because of technology. We are now able to instantly communicate with almost everybody we know due to mobile technology and social networking. If I wanted to, I could instantly contact my long lost friend in Vancouver or my cousins in Illinois at the touch of a button for free.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg people. With mobile data and Google Docs I could balance my spreadsheets from half way around world if I wanted to. But unfortunately, it appears that firms would rather pay you to show up, rather than paying you for the work you produce.
Advances made by Google and Amazon are very important for the reduction of the work week. With things such as Google’s Driverless Car;
and Amazon’s use of Drones;
Humans will be needed less and less, while delivery times, product turn around, and profits are all maximized.
In a Society Intent on 9-5, is the Reduced Week Even Possible?
Yes. Yes it is. Sweden has already implemented a reduced work week for some areas of public sector jobs. This is however an experiment, where some of the civil servants are working the reduced work week, while others are working the traditional 8 hour days. The government expects to find those in the reduced hour week to take “fewer sick days and feel better mentally and physically after they’ve worked shorter days.”
Economists are also on board with the 30 hour work week. They insist that wages will be slightly higher, wealth will be more evenly shared, and employees will take fewer unplanned days off. All effectively improving company’s bottom line and the economy in general.
The Cost of Free Time
Now this is all just from my prospective, a university student who is used to more free time than regular 5-9ers. I don’t have a family to look after, or many bills to pay, but I know that I would rather cut back on unnecessary spending than work 10 extra hours every week for the rest of my life. But hey, maybe I’m just experiencing a ‘quarter-life crisis’ with the impending end of my university career next fall.