What we need to understand before acting is – Human Resource

Many circumstances, especially in recent years, have brought some flexibility to working hours practices. The four-day work week in Portugal is a cause for reflection; Some companies are testing it, and there is even legislation for a pilot program aimed at its trial adoption. But before you decide, you need to understand what it really is.

By Isabel Moço, coordinator and professor at the European University

In the book “The Four-Day Work Week”, the author – Robert Gross – builds on previous research and asks the following question: If long working hours are harmful to the individual and do not represent a more productive system, why do we continue to work five days a week? Gross, like many teachers, consultants, and academics, advocates reducing work hours with this approach. At the same time, there are many who say that people, companies and businesses, economies and countries are not yet fully prepared for this change – at least if it is radical and global.

In the midst of this debate, people management experts are trying to understand the strength of management and the logic of business and the pressures on employees – current and potential – what it is all about and how they should orient themselves. For the future.

This article is constructed with the intention of providing some support for that purpose, recording what has already been researched, tested and determined, and it is up to each reader to decide.

The debate in this regard is already rife in various quarters. We are a long way from what Keynes predicted in 1930, which predicted that within a century we would be working 15 hours a week. In the same sense, in 1965, the Senate of the United States (US) considered that in 2020, the average length of the working week would be roughly the same as that advanced by Keynes. This is not the case, and widespread practice around the world is 30-40 hours per week. So, we are far from these predictions, the common phenomena of BANI environments (abbreviation of brittle, curious, non-linear and incomprehensible – in Portuguese, fragile, curious, non-linear and incomprehensible), epidemics, etc., taught us that the old ways of working may have numbered their days. .

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Flexibility has definitely entered our discourses and practices, and if we have made the workplace, rewards or working hours more flexible, why is it not possible for this flexibility to include a shortened or reduced weekly workday?

There is no doubt that the entire economy and society is organized around five days of work and two days of rest in a week. If this measure is accepted only by certain sectors of the economy and a third day of rest is an option, some questions arise. For example, how can a family organize their time, with mother having one day off on the third day of the week, father on another day, children at school all five days, and extracurricular activities only on certain days of the week?

Six-Day to Four-Day Work: Where Are You?
The organization and regulation of working hours appeared late in the history of work/employment and gained real expression only with the Industrial Revolution, in which the working day varied from 12 to 18 hours per day (Beniwitz, 2015). Although English workers had been demanding shorter working hours since the mid-19th century, it was only in 1845 that Lord Ashley and John Fieldon limited the working day to 10 hours from Monday to Friday. Eight hours a day for women and children, on Saturdays. At the beginning of the 20th century, in Germany, Ernst Abe (Zeiss) and later Hugo Münsterberg (1913) demonstrated that maintaining working conditions increased productivity even as working hours were reduced.

These are the first records of reduced working hours combined with rationalization and productivity approaches in organizations. With a very bold vision at the time, Henry Ford’s industry – Ford Motors, in the 1920s – decided that “there” people would work five days a week and a total of 40 hours a week, and people would have time off and rest. While the real reason was in the “measurements,” it showed that fatigue brought about lower productivity and more errors. Important Note: Paid for six consecutive days.

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At the end of the 19th century, Robert Owen pointed out the rule of balance: eight hours of work, eight hours of rest and eight hours of sleep (the 8-8-8 rule), and Henry Ford was one of the pioneers to follow. philosophy.

Throughout the 20th century, working hours were slowly reduced, and in Portugal, only in the last few decades did Saturday (generally) become a day of rest, while most countries in the world maintain the working day to this day. 35- 40h as standard. In the meantime, it should be remembered that the International Labor Office (ILO) is moving forward with the definition of working hours, indicating some principles, however, it should be considered that there are exceptions justified by the nature of the activity:

  • reducing the weekly workload to 40 hours;
  • A work calendar of up to six working days/week;
  • Eight hours of work/day up to a limit of 10 hours;
  • At least one week off.

However, it is known that the practices are highly dependent on the applicable legislation, operation, management vision and each country. Many situations, especially in recent years, have brought some flexibility to working time practices driven by the vision of companies, but also due to the greater claim/bargaining power of workers. For example, there is talk of the “compressed week,” in which workers can work more hours on fewer days (in addition to the daily limits) and thus have half a day or a day off during the week. The most popular and widely used form is the four-day schedule, 10 hours a day or four days of extra half-hour work, with Friday afternoon off.

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In recent years, and due to the demands for flexibility that people bring, companies have adopted this move as a “flexibility policy” with the aim of making candidates more attractive. Greater concerns about workers’ well-being, health and permanence also highlight the need to re-examine these working-time issues.

Many of the arguments in defense of the four-day week are based on the idea of ​​scientific and technological advances, if at the end of the 19th century people worked 80 to 100 hours a week, after a century, in general, we have 35-40 hours, shouldn’t we progress to 28-32 hours? Maybe…

Read the full article in the January issue of Human Resources (#145), on newsstands now.

If you want to buy online, you have Paper version It has Digital version.

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