One hundred and two years ago, industrialization, workers’ demands and the Canadian strike allowed us to go from working 72 hours or more to the 40-hour week as we now conceive it. Since then, in 1919, the number of technological tools at our fingertips has multiplied. From means of transport on the internet and computers, to automation, through mobile phones and email. These inventions have increased labor productivity. We have achieved instant messages, digital photographs, mechanized calculations, virtual search or automatic stock control.
Despite the increase in productivity, the paid working day has remained at 40 hours, or has even increased if we consider the family units in which there has been a shift from one to two workers with the massive incorporation of women into work. For this reason, now is the time to transpose increased productivity to benefits for people. Now it’s time to buy time.
And at this point two questions arise: how do we save time and what do we do with this new time? Although flexible hours and teleworking have grown in the post-pandemic world, reducing the working day to 4 working days or 30 hours a week while maintaining 100% of the salary continues to be one of the most pioneering daring. However, when this reduction has been made, it has worked for both employees and employers.
In Microsoft Japan, for example, the implementation of the 4-day week with maintenance of salary, limitation of the duration of meetings and correct distribution of tasks caused workers to take 25% less leave. Additionally, electricity use decreased 23% and employees printed 59% less paper. 92% said they were happier with a shorter work week. Globally, 63% of companies that have implemented a 4-day or 30-hour week have attracted more human capital, trained more young people, retained the best talent and reduced staff turnover, as reported collected at the Time Use Week held the last week of October in Barcelona.
In our country, the Workers’ Statute only regulates the maximum duration of the working day, therefore, proposing a reduction is in the hands of the companies and collective bargaining, without the need to wait for new legislation.
Now is the time to transpose increased productivity to benefits for people
That famous quote that says “if we want different results, we must try different things” becomes crucial in this new paradigm. Imagine a world in which human-created technology benefits humans themselves with shorter working hours and a better quality of life. A world in which having more time inevitably leads us to perform more unpaid acts with a collective impact. Thanks to this new time, a boy has decided to volunteer with newcomers, some neighbors have encouraged to set up a joint urban garden, a woman finally has time to write articles in the local newspaper or she can simply go to pick up her son. at school.
Precisely because the 4-day shift has great potential, implementing it must be done hand in hand with other measures and being aware of the opportunities it offers us. Several companies that have taken the step have asked workers to ask themselves three questions and write down their answers. With the time saved, what will you do again for yourself, for your family and friends and for the community.
And is that time is a zero-sum game. In other words, working time, including commuting to work, fragmentation in unpaid breaks or the dilation of the working day by the presence of a stoppage lasting several hours at noon, is time that we no longer have available for dedicate yourself to other causes. In fact, it has been shown that long working hours reduce people’s socio-political participation and decrease involvement in local activism and the quality of democracy. Therefore, it is the responsibility of companies, entities and workers to establish a precedent, bargain collectively and discover new ways of working.
Possibly there will be those who will misinterpret this article as a compliment to idleness, but, on the contrary, it is an ode to a job well done. In the same way that translating advances, technological improvements and increased productivity into a decrease in working time is an exercise in logic and intelligence and a praise to humanity and the quality of life.
Minerva Estruch, member of the Restarting Badalona association