It’s mid-August and summer is officially drawing to a close. Each remaining day that could be spent at a beach or pool seems precious – which is why it seemed like a good idea to draw everyone’s attention to this article in Brink that cites scientific research proving that working less improves productivity. That’s right, all you data-driven decision-makers! A number of employers have experimented with giving employees a shorter work week or a shorter day without cutting their pay (that’s key) and found that all the work got done and employees were happier – as in, much happier.
This article resonated with me because I spent 18 months working in a market research company in Tokyo not long after I got out of college, back in the late ‘80s. We worked six days a week, and usually until 9 or 10 at night. Of course, we went for a long dinner with plenty of beer and sake before returning to the office to “work” another hour or two before going home, and we were just about as efficient as you might expect. Saturdays were pretty relaxed too. It was one thing for me to work on Saturday, but many of my Japanese coworkers had families. Yet the culture required that you put in the mega-hours, whether or not they added up to anything useful.
Conversely, back in the States and working in this business, I cut back to part-time after my daughter was born. Strangely, I was able to keep my position and complete essentially the same work I had done as a full-time employee. I attributed it to some superpower triggered by motherhood. But maybe it’s got more to do with human nature and Parkinson's law: that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion".
Among other ideas worth pondering, the article suggests rethinking the common practice of paying part-time workers less than full-time workers. Just read it! Preferably in a lounge chair on the beach, during what might otherwise be working hours.
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