Flexibility: Trigger to 15 Hours A Week.

Article number 46, words 750 apx

The pandemic has surely taught us a thing or two , when the dust settles and water starts flowing under the bridge again, companies will surely revisit their learning from pandemic. One of the biggest learning has been employees prefer flexibility. 15 hours a week is inevitable but will not happen suddenly it will be a progression, it will begin with greater flexibility to the employees. For e.g. decades back 7 days and 70 hours a week was a norm, nobody envisaged a 5 days a week or 40 hours a week. Similarly it would be difficult to envisage 15 hours a week in the current context.

The current 9 am to 6 pm job is too rigid. Work or no work, employee has to be in office.  The obsession with employee being in office hampers optimizing the utilization of time. Companies will have to work this problem out by asking what deters them from providing the required flexibility. We understand the obvious concerns what companies face but the concern need to be addressed. Companies will have to be more innovative, build structures and invest its resources to solve the problem/concerns. The biggest problem which I feel most of the companies do not acknowledge this as a problem hence there is no solution.

The title would seem ambitious and would sound naive, but i intend to present some information which you would definitely find it interesting. So lets explore the topic.

In 19th century people had to put in twice the time simply to survive then today. In cities like Manchester, a 70-hour workweek no vacations, no weekends were the norm. “Nevertheless, starting around 1850 some of the prosperity created by the Industrial Revolution began to trickle down  to the lower classes. The era met with lot of resistance from industrialist for reducing the working hours under the garb of effecting productivity.

It took visionary Henry Ford to break the clutter and implement a five-day workweek. People called him crazy. Then they followed in his footsteps as there was clear evidence that increased productivity.

This lead to continuous decline in the weekly working hours, in 1933, the  U.S Senate approved legislation introducing a 30-hour workweek. Although the bill   languished in the House of Representatives under industry pressure.            

Discussion of reducing the working hour is not a new concept it is strongly supported by some of the great thinker’s. Keynes said, mankind would be confronted with the greatest challenge it had ever faced: what to do with a sea of spare time.   He anticipated that within a century the Western standard of living would have multiplied to at least four times that of 1930. The conclusion? In 2030, we’ll be working just 15 hours a week.

American Founding Father Benjamin Franklin had predicted that four   hours of work a day would eventually suffice. Beyond that, life would be all “leisure and pleasure.” And  Karl Marx similarly looked forward to a day when everyone would have the time “to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, raise cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.”

In 1956, Vice President Richard Nixon promised Americans that they would only have to work four days a week “in the not too distant future.” The country had reached a “plateau of prosperity,” and he believed a shorter workweek was inevitable. Before  long, machines  would be doing all the work.This would free up “abundant scope for recreation,” a Senate committee report projected that by 2000 the workweek would be down to just 14 hours, with at least seven weeks off a year.

What Ford, Kellogg, and Heath had all discovered is that productivity and long work hours do not go hand in  hand. In the 1980s, Apple employees sported T-shirts that read, “Working 90 hours a week and loving it!” Later, productivity experts calculated that if they had worked half the hours then the world might have enjoyed the ground breaking Macintosh computer a year earlier.

There are strong indications that in a modern knowledge economy, even 40 hours a week is too much. Research suggests that someone who is      constantly drawing on their creative abilities can, on average, be productive for no more than six hours a day. It’s no coincidence that the world’s wealthy countries, those with a large creative class and highly educated populations, have also shaved the most time off their workweeks

The current century will see an exponential growth in productivity as I see we are tipping point in terms of technological progress. on the other hand consumerism or materialistic is a biggest concern. Economic growth can yield either more leisure or more consumption. From 1850 until 1980, we got both, but since then, it is mostly consumption that has increased. Even where real incomes have stayed the same and inequality has exploded, the consumption craze has continued, but then on credit. And that’s precisely  the main argument that has been brought to bear against the shorter workweek: We can’t afford it. More leisure is a wonderful ideal, but it’s simply too expensive. If we were all to work less, our standard of living would collapse and the welfare state would crumble.

Being materialistic is not sustainable, we are in era which is a big proponent of “Greed is Good”, but it is clearly evident that it is not sustainable. If you closely analyze the trend you will realize that we are being manipulated, we are falling in to the trap of false needs which is created by marketing and Eco system around us. We have got so good at marketing that unknowingly we keep marketing/selling our selves. Look at Facebook you constantly keep selling yourselves with regards to how cool you are.

I am not sure when we will see 15 hours a week but i am sure its inevitable. The future has interesting things stored for us, with limited talent being chased by the companies, flexibility would be the mantra, hiring the right resource for the right job from the global pool would be the way ahead. Flexibility will be seen has more of a necessity.

Companies which suffer or are apprehensive about giving their employees flexibility, are companies which do not have clear defined deliverable and expectation from the employees. Ambiguity leads to ignorance. Not all jobs can be measured objectively, but with little effort we can clearly define deliverable for all job.

The question which i have is more fundamental, the society expects one to be a good son, a good parent, a good husband, a rounded person etc etc etc . the list is long . So the question is where is the time? This is one of the main reason why people have become less and less social and thus leading a very inclusive life which has further lead in to dehumanization. We do not exist for companies , companies exist for us. Thus it is important that companies facilitate a Eco System which makes the society a better place to live. If ultimate good which humans strive to achieve is happiness then it could be agreed that we are failing.( read the article to know more on dehumanizing http://manojshetty.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=543&action=edit ).

Companies do not exist only for making profits, they are there to serve the society. Its time, we start following it rather speaking it in the board room. It important all the stake holders Shareholders, Employees and the Nature are equally taken care off. Being irresponsible has brought us to a state where stress level, income disparity, climate change, gender inequality has grown unsustainable.  It time to send the message that “We Care”.


Book : Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World

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article represent my own views in my private capacity and not those of any of
my current or previous employer, any institutions. The article is a
research work based only the limited, dated and open source information.
For the sources the statements have been quoted with the authors
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