Why stop at a four day week – let’s go for one day

July 5th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A four-day working week promoted by one of Britain’s top doctors is a “radical” concept worthy of debate, considering the importance of a healthy work-life balance, a Canterbury health leader says.

A business leader in the region, however, says the idea is “nonsense” and imposing a rigid standard would be a backwards step.

Professor John Ashton, the president of the United Kingdom Faculty of Public Health, told British media this week that “a mal-distribution of work” was damaging people’s health.

Ashton called for Britain to phase out the five-day week, saying it would help combat high levels of work-related stress and illness.

Too many people were working “crazy” hours and a significant number of people were not working at all, he said.

“We need a four-day week so that people can enjoy their lives, have more time with their families and maybe reduce [workers'] high blood pressure.”

Why stop at four days? Think how much better off we’d be if we only worked three days a week? Or two days? Why not one day a week?

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Alistair Humphrey, of the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB), said it was “a challenging and thought-provoking idea” worthy of debate.

No its’ not.

Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said it was “nonsense” to suggest a four-day working week would solve everyone’s problems.

“I get a bit tired of people who just put straight lines in the sand. That is not how the world works these days. You deal with things on an individual basis. If someone in your workplace is [showing] signs of stress you deal with it,” he said.

“A young couple that might be paying off a mortgage with no kids might want to work 60 hours a week. It is all about being accommodating and flexible.”

Exactly. the idea of a law that sets a maximum working week for everyone is socialist nonsense.

Auckland manufacturing company Manson Marine & Engineering allows its staff to opt for four-day weeks once a month. Staff work 10-hour days that week and earn an extra 12 days off a year as a result.

That’s a great example of flexibility – at an individual company level.

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43 Responses to “Why stop at a four day week – let’s go for one day”

  1. Manolo (13,840 comments) says:

    Another progressive doctor. What a surprise!

    By the way, P.G.’s former boss, Dunne The Besotted Fantasist, promises to campaign on extended parental leave for fathers. These are fundamental human rights, after all.

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  2. Colville (2,272 comments) says:

    When I was an employer we used to do 4 days weeks when we were down to 40 hours a week.
    4 Tens is way better than 5 eights.
    Trades work typical 44 hours as a light week, 48 – 55 is busy. Either 10 or 11 hour days with 8 hours friday.
    I never let the boys work Saturday unless they were living away. Then we would world 10 days on 4 days off.

    Some crews work 60 hours plus. But you never get quality work. Ok if you are charge up for some numpty. Kiwi/Tui/Fonterra come to mind. Sure let a self empoloyed welder find somewhere to nap on your site charging $75/hr and do 16 hours a day 7 days a week. Awesome that. At least he gets a new HSV ute every 2 years.

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  3. Colville (2,272 comments) says:

    Manolo.
    Just did Craig A’s 60th. From colional shambles.
    19 bottles at lunch. 10 of us.
    I feel sleepy !

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  4. nickb (3,687 comments) says:

    I didn’t say anything in the article that suggested this academic wanted government compulsion.

    As someone working in an industry where most people are flogged into the ground I do have some sympathy with this view. There have been quite a few studies I have heard about that show the KPI increases of staff where their workload is scaled back a bit (in some industries).

    Some farmers I know are changing from a 12 day on 2 day off model to a 5 day on 2 day off model. Staffing costs increase but KPIs of staff and overall productivity increases to compensate. Fonterra is pushing this quite a lot I believe.

    That said, in this day and age most competent employees can generally negotiate more flexible working hours once they have built up some trust with their employer.

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  5. artemisia (242 comments) says:

    How about the 4 hour work week?

    “Ferriss developed a streamlined system of checking email once per day and outsourcing small daily tasks to virtual assistants.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_4-Hour_Workweek

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  6. MT_Tinman (3,205 comments) says:

    I’m all for a 4 day week.

    I’m self employed – who’s going to pay for the other two days?

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  7. WineOh (630 comments) says:

    Citing the examples of people working “crazy hours” imply that you are going to force them to work less – ie, compulsion… in order to free up more job-hours to give to those who don’t work at all. You might as well put out a mandatory 20% paycut, and see how popular that is to the ‘working class.’

    IMHO you’d get much better productivity gains by encouraging people to take reasonable breaks, both during the day and for annual leave. Where it suits both employer and employee the flexibility already occurs, my spouse negotiated a 9-day fortnight in her current contract. Still available by phone and flexible in shifting the ‘day off’ where required for genuinely urgent business requirements.

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  8. burt (8,275 comments) says:

    It’s easy, let’s all just work the days that parliament sits.

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  9. prosper (168 comments) says:

    I don’t know how theses guys have enough intelligence to get through medical school or is he thinking of the silly hours he worked as a house surgeon and applying that everybody else. Ignorant.

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  10. dad4justice (8,238 comments) says:

    “It’s easy, let’s all just work the days that parliament sits.”

    Nice one burt and we demand what those parasites are getting paid.

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  11. mister nui (1,029 comments) says:

    A 4 day week would be lovely, wouldn’t it…

    Some of us at times work 40 odd days in a row, 12 hrs a day, offshore – that’s just to keep the world’s resources flowing so these fuckwit doctors can flit about the world going to conference after conference.

    A 9/80 fortnight is quite common in the US, where one works 80hrs over 9 days and then has the 10th off.

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  12. m@tt (629 comments) says:

    Mister Nui. If you don’t like your job you can find another. #freemarketrules. #itsallaboutchoice.

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  13. Anthony (796 comments) says:

    It’s very common in Wellington for people to work four days a week and get 80% of a full time salary. Sometimes it’s mothers who want a day off during the week with their kids, sometimes it’s older people just wanting to have more leisure time and sometimes it’s younger people working in their own business the other day.

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  14. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,903 comments) says:

    No doubt the good doctor expects five days pay for four days work?

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  15. mister nui (1,029 comments) says:

    Oh, I like my job very much, matty… In those 40 days I’ll earn an absolute pile of dosh (6 figures), see that’s the beauty of the resources industry you and your lefty chums despise so much.

    #theleftarescum

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  16. bondi (4 comments) says:

    Mr Nui, your pissing contest is embarrassing. Suffice to say that’s poor remuneration for that lifestyle.

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  17. IC5000 (114 comments) says:

    “mister nui (921 comments) says:
    July 5th, 2014 at 5:40 pm
    A 4 day week would be lovely, wouldn’t it…

    Some of us at times work 40 odd days in a row, 12 hrs a day, offshore – that’s just to keep the world’s resources flowing so these fuckwit doctors can flit about the world going to conference after conference.”

    More than a sense of self-entitlement in this post. People like this seem to think they are irreplacable when they are in fact merely disposable factors of production.

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  18. Sponge (184 comments) says:

    Yeah, because the shortened working week worked so well for France din’t it?

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  19. Peter (1,714 comments) says:

    I shifted to four day weeks a few years back. Best thing I ever did. Nicer life and productivity increased.

    It’s about what your complete, not how long you sit at a desk pretending to work.

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  20. Sponge (184 comments) says:

    Exactly Peter it is all about productivity and not how many days you spend at work.

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  21. Yoza (1,879 comments) says:

    The moral argument against wage slavery

    At one time in the U.S., in the mid-19th century, working for wage labor was considered not very different from chattel slavery. That was the slogan of the Republican Party, the banner under which northern workers went to fight in the Civil War. We’re against chattel slavery and wage slavery……and furthermore ……….the debate about slavery. A lot of the debate about slavery took place, or as we reconstruct it could have taken place, on shared moral grounds. In fact, one can understand the slave owner’s arguments on our moral grounds, and one can even see that those argu­ments are not insignificant. Take one case just to illustrate. Suppose I’m a slave owner, and you’re opposed to slavery, and I give you the following argument for slavery: “Suppose you rent a car and I buy a car. Who’s going to take better care of it? Well, the answer is that I’m going to take better care of it because I have a capital investment in it. You ‘re not going to take care of it at alL If you hear a rattle, you ‘re just going to give it back to Hertz and let somebody else wor,y about it. If I hear a rattle, I’m going to take it to the garage because I don’t want to get in trouble later on. In general, I’m going to take better care of the car I own than you’re going to take of the car you rent. Suppose I own a person and you rent a person. Who’s going to take better care of that person? Well, parity of argument, I’m going to take better care of that person than you are. Consequently, it follows that slavery is much more moral than capitalism.

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  22. Captain Pugwash (98 comments) says:

    My former boss moved to a four day week (for him self!) Fridays off. Then to a three day week, Mondays off. Productivity went through the roof, profits up so much he got himself a new V12 BMW. However I was still working 6 ~ 7 days a week with pay biased on 40 hour a week salary. Doing his job + mine!

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  23. Sponge (184 comments) says:

    Pugwash.

    I had a boss that did that too.

    So I went and started my own company where I was the boss.

    I just brought a HSV Senator.

    I think there is a lesson there somewhere.

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  24. MT_Tinman (3,205 comments) says:

    Captain Pugwash (80 comments) says:
    July 5th, 2014 at 7:54 pm
    My former boss moved to a four day week (for him self!) Fridays off. Then to a three day week, Mondays off. Productivity went through the roof, profits up so much he got himself a new V12 BMW. However I was still working 6 ~ 7 days a week with pay biased on 40 hour a week salary. Doing his job + mine!

    No one has ever claimed flipping burgers was easy. ;-)

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  25. big bruv (13,935 comments) says:

    “I just brought a HSV Senator.”

    Keep working hard Sponge, one day you might be able to afford a really nice car.

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  26. Sponge (184 comments) says:

    Thanks bruv, I will keep my staff at it. :)

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  27. big bruv (13,935 comments) says:

    That’s the story Sponge.

    I certainly hope you do not tolerate any of them belonging to a union?

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  28. David in Chch (519 comments) says:

    This is not a new idea. I remember hearing such suggestions decades ago. HOWEVER, as a few of you have noted, people wanted to get paid the same amount. Now if the measure of the job were productivity, NOT the hours, then I think most people would be happy to do that. But we don’t. We get paid hourly or, for many of us, in a salary. Now in principle, many of us on salary can work flextime, but the last time I worked out my average number of hours per week, it was 56 (or something like that).

    So while it’s a lovely idea, I don’t think it will fly any better now than 20, or 30, or 40 years ago.

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  29. chickadee (22 comments) says:

    Why should I work more than half my waking hours? Great idea if you actually think about it. The unemployed can fill the gaps and all of us can pay less tax foe those people we have put into work. Win Win!
    Working people spend quality time with their children and everyone works. No down side.
    You guys do realise that ‘serfdom’ went out with the middle ages don’t you?

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  30. Sponge (184 comments) says:

    Bruv,

    Good God no! I can’t have them getting uppity.

    Everyone is paid around 20% more than similar positions in other companies. They can take leave with little notice. If a kid is sick they don’t need to ask for a day off as they know they can just take it. If they need time off to deal with EQC it is paid time and I have offered to provide legal support if it is needed. The average Christmas bonus for my staff (of 7) last year was $7,000 after tax.

    Unions are a thing of the past. If I do not provide good terms and conditions for my staff then they will leave. My staff are the most valuable part of my business so I need to look after them. Without them I have not got a violable business. In return they work hard – and there is nothing wrong with that as far as I can see.

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  31. big bruv (13,935 comments) says:

    Sponge

    Oh come on man!

    You really need to take one of them out into the street and administer a bit of a beating every now and then to keep the bastards in line, failing that perhaps a non fatal gun shot (close to closing time so you do not lose any productivity) might be in order.

    We simply cannot have Bumber Bradbury and his gang of fucked in the head union scum thinking that we are all good employers now can we.

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  32. Sponge (184 comments) says:

    bruv,

    A splendid idea. I will take a poll on Monday of who wants to be the first to be thrashed. :)

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  33. Alan (1,087 comments) says:

    There’s a legitimate debate to be had about how increased automation changes working hours;

    The industrial revolution and the benefits of automation brought a change from the rural dawn to dusk 6 days a week that people used to work in the fields to survive. Somewhere around 40 hours became common.

    Again we’re in a technological revolution, were new manufacturing and distribution methods are driving productivity to levels that wold have been inconceivable 100 years ago.

    It’s inevitable that work patterns will change to reflect this over the next 100 years. Four or three day weeks may be common for our grand children.

    Not going to happen quickly though

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  34. itstricky (1,852 comments) says:

    Exactly. the idea of a law that sets a maximum working week for everyone is socialist nonsense.

    Except that not all employers are “good” employers. Which is why “lines in the sand” (AKA what other people call “laws”) have to exist at all, in the first place. Suggesting otherwise is DPF election year nonsense, not socialist nonsense.

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  35. MH (762 comments) says:

    TV3 under J Campbell will be shooting a new show in which am undercover worker goes to a boardroom in a suit and tie and…well anyway they make decisions and in the end he/she gets to reduce the bosses salary.

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  36. IC5000 (114 comments) says:

    Actually maybe a smarter move would be to enact legislation mandating all extra time over 40 hours be paid as overtime. 40 hours a week isn’t that much and can be handled by most but it’ll stop workers subsiding business through unpaid overtime. I’d be happy to work for than 40 hours a week provided I’m getting paid for it. Of course I can hear the squeals of employers now about trying to avoid paying workers what they would be required based on legitimate hours worked. It’s funny how socialist the supposedly capitalists can become when they find their unearned benefits being taken away from them.

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  37. Drone (19 comments) says:

    Maybe the time is right/approaching when to reduce unemployment the concept of a real 2.5 day week has actually arrived. This would give everybody a meaningful existence. Rather than having right wing oiks wailing about the “dole” bludgers in our society and facile comments about 2 day weeks. Many members of society would value one or two days genuine work as an alternative to their current existence.

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  38. Fentex (986 comments) says:
    said it was “a challenging and thought-provoking idea” worthy of debate.

    No its’ not.

    I think it is. I think modern industry and automation does promise, perhaps threatens, a world in which there simply isn’t as much productive work as necessary to be done to employ everyone.

    Which brings the principle of everyone only having what they earn from their labours or invention into question without even having to worry about the prospect of a truly ‘post scarcity’ economy as some people think improved automation offers.

    If it becomes true that there is, as we have organized our economics, insufficient productive labour to be done and insufficient interest in markets for non-productive labour then re-organizing our expectations and schedules so as to spread what work there is around is an idea worth considering.

    We do not, after all, live in a world or society where we are expected to, and do work 24/7 except by dint of what we contract different. We already have accepted, in general where differences are exceptions rather than the rule, a five day working week and two day weekend.

    There is no particularly magic reason it is balanced that way and no particular reason we might not someday pick another balance.

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  39. jackinabox (776 comments) says:

    “Why stop at a four day week – let’s go for one day”

    “Why not throw the baby out with the bath water”

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  40. mister nui (1,029 comments) says:

    Actually maybe a smarter move would be to enact legislation mandating all extra time over 40 hours be paid as overtime.

    In my opinion, all labour should be on a contract basis, such that you are paid for whatever hour or day you work. No employment contracts needed, no severance pay, no holiday pay, no sick pay. Just a simple contract with an hourly/daily rate agreed to. Nothing more.

    The insurance market can take care of the rest.

    That’s what you were after, IC5000, wasn’t it?

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  41. mister nui (1,029 comments) says:

    Suffice to say that’s poor remuneration for that lifestyle.

    You’re my accountant, are you bondi? How do you know how much I earn? Fuckhead.

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  42. bondi (4 comments) says:

    You’re my accountant, are you bondi? How do you know how much I earn? Fuckhead
    I’m not interested in your pissing contest, but “six figures” for 500 hours work over 40 days is fuck all. FIFO rig pigs like you spend most of it on blow, slots and hookers anyway. Miserable.

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  43. IC5000 (114 comments) says:

    “mister nui (926 comments) says:
    July 6th, 2014 at 9:51 am

    You’re my accountant, are you bondi? How do you know how much I earn? Fuckhead.”

    Must be a strain being a FIFO toilet cleaner in the mines? Still beats being on the dole in NZ.

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