The four-day work week is real and it’s coming
SOME people can't handle days off. They get antsy and nervous. Not me though.
It will start with an extended snooze. Then, instead of guzzling coffee while looking at my computer, I will probably take my cuppa outside. I sit down and feel the sun on my legs. I might pat the dog and read a newspaper.
I'm suited to having a day off every now and then. And I reckon the same goes for most of us. Who decided we should all work 40 hours a week, every week? And why did they hate fun so much?
Putting everyone on the same schedule is mad. We all wear different types of clothes. We all drive different cars. We even drink different milk. And yet so much of the Australian population all want to work 40-hour weeks?
I doubt it.
The good news is I might be getting a lot more days off. We all might. There's a company in New Zealand that has knocked its working week down to four days, while still paying everyone the same.
This comes as no surprise to me. It really is just the next natural step in a trend that has been going on ever since we used to be coal miners who worked eighty hours a week then die at age 44. Humans are working less.
The next graph shows work hours in Australia are on a long and predictable slide. We lose an hour off the work week every decade or so.
Around a century ago it was a big achievement for workers to band together and get a guaranteed 40-hour week. The long-term trend that made that possible isn't over. Machines do more work and human working hours keep falling. As the next graph shows, that is true across a lot of the richest countries, whether they are European, Asian or American.
I'm all for this trend. Four days a week sounds like a perfect compromise. Australia has an underemployment problem and at the same time an overwork problem. The part-timers want more hours and most full-timers want a little bit of respite. Can't we meet in the middle?
Falling work hours can be good news for anyone who wants to work, but believes the full 40 is a bit much. For example, women with kids. In the bad old days when it was 40 hours a week or nothing, work was for men, and young unmarried women. But slowly this has broken down.
"MATE, I'VE NEVER EVEN TAKEN A HOLIDAY"
Of course, some people are still working 80-hour weeks.
The ones who like to tell you about it probably own their own business, are going to make partner in their law firm, or will float their start-up with an IPO value of a billion.
Meanwhile, many Aussies do 80 hours without boasting. They are driving Uber all weekend or working a retail job on the side. To them, this trend is cruel - falling hours just make life harder.
I know I don't have clearly defined work hours. Sometimes I look at Instagram during the week, and sometimes I work on the weekend. I expect the same is true of most of us.
(Some people are already only doing four days work in five days at work, and they fill in the gaps by looking at their phone. I bet we all know someone like that!)
But I have a fear about the three-day weekend. It would not be relaxing at all if we would be expected to check our phones the whole time.
Is there anything worse than doing work in your time off and then having people at work say "Gee, must have been nice to have so much time off."
If that's the story, I don't want people assuming I'm having that wonderful day off I was telling you about. I want them to acknowledge that I was at work.
- Jason Murphy is an economist. Follow him on Twitter @jasemurphy