Friday, December 16, 2022

Employment: Shorter Hours (or Just Fewer Official Working Days), and Beyond

This week, I bring my focus to the “jobs” part of “jobs and the economy.”  What’s been happening?

We start with a “new” idea in the works so long it seems like an old chestnut – and, indeed, as this piece reported, it dates at least from 1956.  Per Jenny Gross in the September 22nd New York Times, “4-Day Workweek Brings No Loss of Productivity, Companies in Experiment Say.”  The advantages aren’t new – it gives them “more time to exercise, cook, spend time with their families and take up hobbies, boosting their well-being and making them more energized and productive when they were on the clock,” with 33 of 41 involved companies seeing “productivity” unchanged, with six reporting gains.  You say I seem skeptical?  Yes I am, and you would be too it you realized these were studies for fixed amounts of time where it was in employees’ interests to make it look good in hopes of permanent implementation.  The author also finished the roughly 700-word piece without mentioning either whether that really meant 80% of previous obligations, or how many hours workers who were previously doing more than 40 a week put in under the newly-official 32. 

Another on this topic, “Increased revenue, fewer resignations:  New data spotlights benefits of a 4-day workweek,” by Arianne Cohen of Bloomberg News, came out in Benefit News on December 1st.  It was based on another study, after which “not one of the 33 participating companies is returning to a standard five-day schedule.”  Here, in this trial of American, Irish, and Australian companies, they found that “dozens of indicators, ranging from productivity to well-being and fatigue, all improved as the companies transitioned,” and 97% of employees continued four-day workweeks afterwards.  The only comment on what that meant for hours worked, in this longer piece, came in a dissenting view from a human resources consulting firm CEO, who said that “if companies are really committed to this, they would demonstrate it by turning off network access on the days that they’re not scheduled to work, and asking people to leave their laptops in the office, but I just don’t see companies doing that.”  I would also like to see some corporate leader saying straight-out, especially about a pure-production setting, that shorter workweeks would mean less completed work.  Until then, what some might view as a great discovery should be held to a test of years instead of months.

On other aspects, we saw, first, “10 jobs most likely to recover from the pandemic,” in other words with the largest expected employment percentage gain though 2030, by Deanna Cuadra in the September 12th Benefit News.  I was glad not to see any IT technician positions, riper than ever for outsourcing, in this list, which comprised medical and health services managers, financial managers, nurse practitioners, management analysts, general and operations managers, postsecondary health specialties teachers, computer and information systems managers, market research analysts and marketing specialists, lawyers, and construction managers.  A heavy emphasis on managing instead of doing here, but a better set of projections than many I’ve seen.

On November 9th, Laura Amico took a look at “Fear and Stress on the Job” in the Harvard Business Review.  This article was about supporting customer-facing employees being abused.  Most important was for supervisors or managers to physically intervene when such situations materialized, and their need to “try to defuse the angry person quickly and get them out of the store” and then discuss the problem with the worker and document what happened.  These are appropriate guidelines, for cases when it is clear that the customer is, this time, not right.

I have written before about how science, technology, and engineering fields are overrated as good-job sources, and so are not worthy of the superior reputations they have enjoyed over the past decade or more, so was glad to see, by Natasha Singer and Kelley Huang in the December 6th New York Times, that “Computer Science Students Face a Shrinking Big Tech Job Market.”  This piece was mainly about how recent layoffs at technology companies have cut demand for new workers, fleshed out with anecdotals, but the overall message was that focusing on very specific opportunities may fail, and that even favored fields come with no guarantees.  That, along with the immaturity of four-day workweek efforts, is, this time, most important.

No comments:

Post a Comment