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The extremely convenient truth

A shorter workweek would save stress AND the planet

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I am a HUGE fan of technology, having worked the bulk of my career in high-tech and having spent half my life dating/married to an engineer and uber-geek who builds his own robots. Nonetheless, I'm incredibly irritated by the fact that technology hasn't been adopted in the way I believe it was intended -- which is, to help us do our work in less time, thus freeing us to pursue other interests. Like, say, eating. Sleeping. Spending time with our kids that isn't limited to shoveling food into their mouths and whisking them off to the tub, then bed, and subsequently collapsing in exhaustion.

Instead, technology has pushed us to do MOREMOREMORE! So now, rather than doing eight hours of work in four hours, corporate America has said, "Wait -- you can do more in less time? That's it -- 24 hours of work in eight hours! No, make that 10... 12... 16!" In response, everything has become about how fast you can lead your life -- how quickly you can eat, how speedily you can get from home to office, and how well you can multi-task to get all this work done and somehow ensure you've got clean undies to boot. Enter fast food in Styrofoam containers, more cars on the road, and appliances that have spent the last 50-some years wasting water and energy.

But here's an idea proposed by Fast Company columnist, David Roberts: What if the U.S. shortened the workweek by a day -- with the intent of creating greater work/life balance, as well as reducing waste? He points out that Americans "put in more hours and take fewer vacations than just about anyone else in the industrialized world, and our individual ecological ‘footprints' are much larger." In the same vein as telecommuting and flex hours improving family time while keeping cars off the road (points for traffic reduction and lower carbon emissions, not to mention enhanced convenience for tackling life maintenance stuff -- like dentist appointments and laundry), this idea makes a lot of sense. And though I despise how companies have used technology to turn their workforce into the Lean Mean Slave Machine, we do have the tools at hand to crunch a full-time job into 32 hours a week. Why not -- we've proved we can do 80 hours in 40! So instead of happy hour Fridays at 4, we'll have Thursdays at 3, and we'll toast the planet, then hop a bus/train/bike home -- because we'll have the time to go at a more leisurely pace. How utterly convenient.

1 comment so far...

  • What a great article! I couldn't agree more. I love the 4-day work week, even when it is four ten-hour days. I hope that the use of 4-day work weeks, flexible schedules, and telecommuting explode over the next few months. It is sad that it took ridiculously high gas prices for companies to see the benefits of these alternate work schedules.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Roxanne Ravenel JobSearchCoach on 20th July 2008