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Four Day Work Weeks: Dutch Provide Optional, Productive Work Schedule

01.04.11

People in the Netherlands have moved toward four-day work weeks, providing flexibility in employees’ schedules to allow for more personal time.  And contrary to what you might expect, it’s not resulting in a lack of talent or productivity.

Could companies still attract and retain the best talent while we, as a population, get healthier and spend more time with our families with more time away from work?

The Dutch experiment seems to show promise:

But in just a few years, part-time work has ceased being the prerogative of woman with little career ambition, and become a powerful tool to attract and retain talent — male and female — in a competitive Dutch labor market.

Indeed, for a growing group of younger professionals, the appetite for a shorter, a more flexible workweek appears to be spreading, with implications for everything from gender identity to rush-hour traffic.

Interesting that a 4-days-a-week work week is considered “part-time.”  We’re so ingrained with this whole 8-6 (because, c’mon, no one actually works only 9-5 anymore), 5-days-a-week schedule that it’s almost like we can’t think of any other way.  But, why is this the case? Why do many Americans not only work 40 hours a week, but end up working well over – usually without even getting paid extra – making it feel like working less than 9 hours per day is slacking or lazy?  How does this affect our families, our health, our society?

I’m all in favor of way more paid vacation time for Americans, since we have some of the lowest average time off in the industrialized world – although, having shorter work weeks I think would go a long way to not even needing much more vacation time being added to schedules.  Imagine your personal energy level if you had three days off every week.  Imagine the time you could spend with your family and friends.  Imagine the time you could spend working on your own little projects and personal endeavors — perhaps some of which might even end up making you a better employee at your day job.  Imagine traffic in LA if people had different days off — we wouldn’t need to be spending billions on expanding the 405.

Then again, I’m sure it’d be one of those things where “Sure, you don’t have to come in on Friday, but there’s still a lot to do…”  That’s how it’d work here in America.  It’s all about the bottom line.  How can we make more money?  More more more — and it’s always money. But is that really want makes us all happy in the end?  That’s always the moral of the story, right?  The age old adage that money can’t buy happiness, yet, you sure start to think otherwise once you join the workforce.

We measure success in annual salary and the car you drive and the clothes you wear — which is why it’s been so easy to project success when, financially, you’re anything but.  All it takes are several lines of credit maxed to the gills and you can look rich, too.  And, in the end, isn’t that all that matters?  It’s not like we’re walking around with our savings account balance printed out on our foreheads — so if you see someone in designer jeans driving a BMW we can tell ourselves that they are leasing their ride and paid for that Diesel denim with their Discover Card, but who knows.  Maybe they are rolling in dough.  Maybe they’re inches away from total financial ruin.

Regardless, even if we love our jobs — which while attainable for some, it’s still a job — isn’t life too short to be working 50 hours a week, every week, with maybe a measly 10 days off a year, no matter how much money we’re making?

Photo courtesy of TheGoogly’s Flickr Photostream.

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  1. […] Four Day Work Weeks: Dutch Provide Optional, Productive Work Schedule (masonryan.wordpress.com) […]



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