Why a four-day work week is a bad tale

    Analytical confusion about labor productivity and the dependence of this indicator on the number of working hours of each employee.

    There is an interesting contrast to control systems. In China , the “996 scheme” is common - to work from nine in the morning until nine in the evening six days a week. Severely, but in 2018 in the Celestial Empire a new unicorn appeared every three days. And in Davos , the idea of ​​a four-day work week was recently cultivated . For me personally, these are two extremes. Only China, with an almost bottomless reserve of personnel, can afford the first, but who needs the second? After all, should work like it?

    Against this background, I decided to conduct a survey in my Telegram channel Groks. As a result, almost 900 people (81%) of more than 1000 respondents said they would like to reduce their working week to four days. Looking at the results of the survey, I wanted to figure out what is the happiness that increases productivity, and where are the origins of this already global idea to increase the weekend.

    At the last WEF, the psychologist Adam Grant and economist Rutger Bregman talked about the benefits of more days off . Arguing their opinion, they remembered Henry Ford, who was one of the first to decide to reduce the working week from 60 to 40 hours. Physical fatigue from monotonous labor at the plant really had a negative impact on the performance of the enterprise. Since then, a 40-hour work week has become the standard in many countries.

    They further referred toисследование Уорикского университета о взаимосвязи счастья и продуктивности. Одним из выводов данной научной работы было то, что если дать человеку шоколадку или рассказать ему шутку перед выполнением задачи, то его продуктивность повысится на 8-12%. Кстати, в Business Insider есть оговорка, что не все люди начнут работать эффективнее при большем количестве свободного времени.

    А начало всей этой дискуссии было положено одной небольшой компанией по составлению завещаний из Новой Зеландии. Именно они первыми решили провести эксперимент по сокращению рабочей недели до четырёх дней. Эксперимент оказался удачным — продуктивность сотрудников компании увеличилась на 20%. И с тех пор весь коллектив Perpetual Guardian перешёл на новый режим.

    Основатель Perpetual Guardian claims that his company's experience has attracted the attention of more than 3 billion people through hundreds of news publications. And then doubts crept into my head about the appropriateness of the new trend.

    Hourly Productivity by Country

    In one of the WEF's articles, I came across a curious schedule. It served as a justification for the fact that a greater number of working hours does not at all indicate greater productivity.

    For example, in South Korea, people work a lot, but the ratio of GDP to the number of working hours per person is very small, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. And I wanted to watch this metric in dynamics.

    GDP share per person-hour

    On the graph, we see a significant increase in Irish labor productivity, provided that productivity according to the WEF is a proportion of GDP per person-hour. How much reduced the number of hours worked by residents of Ireland for such a jump?

    Table parameters are not passed to URL.

    Available tools on the OECD website leave much to be desired. Unfortunately, not everything can be visualized, since in places the ancient and buggy Flash is used. But according to the table, we see that the average number of working hours of the Irish did not decrease, but rather increased.

    Next, I decided to form the top countries for the least number of labor hours per person. I took 2016 as a guideline, because it was this year that was reflected in the first infographic from Statista. (By the way, I don’t know where Statista got its values ​​from. According to the OECD, Ireland has no hourly productivity of $ 95, such an error is observed for each country.)

    The leader is Germany. The average German at work spends 1362 hours a year - less than all the other inhabitants of Europe. Now for the sake of completeness, we need to build a list of countries according to working hour productivity in US dollars.

    Looking at the last two tables, I do not observe any correlation between the number of hours worked and the productivity of each hour. Labor productivity in US dollars is determined only by the state of the economy of a country. However, the existing information for such conclusions is not enough. Therefore, I propose to turn to the Fed data.

    I made a graph of the percentage change from year to year, the ratio of real US GDP to man-hours ( productivity ), the total number of man-hours and the average hours per person per year for the period from 1971 to 2011.

    Federal Reserve Service

    Such a sample already allows us to say with confidence that there is no relationship between the number of working hours per person and the productivity of an hour. Productivity can fall along with the amount of working time per person, or it can grow, which is a direct contradiction of the idea of ​​increasing a person’s productivity while reducing his working time.

    Pay attention to the extremum point in 2009. If the schedule did not have a total number of working hours, then one would think that the reduction in the working time of a person has a positive effect on productivity. But this is a big mistake.

    My explanation for this phenomenon is this: crisis is bloodletting. Everyone is trying to optimize everything and everything. There is a large-scale cleaning of all the ineffective and overstated. Globally reducing the number of unnecessary hours of work. Therefore, the ratio of GDP to total working time rises, called productivity analysts . Take a look at the overall picture:

    In arbitrary units by index, productivity doubled, and the average amount of working time per person decreased from 100 to 93. The

    discrepancy between productivity and the global amount of labor hours, reminiscent of the dawn of Silicon Valley, is noteworthy. At this point, I recalled one interesting chart that I published almost three years ago in my Groks.

    Revenue per company per employee

    On average, each Apple employee generates nearly $ 2 million in revenue for the company per year. This is the best indicator among the presented brands, although Apple, unlike Google, is not famous for corporate democracy and liberal working conditions. However, their employees are more efficient.

    Yes, not all efficiency can be measured in dollars, but what metric of labor productivity can be better than the amount of money generated through this work?

    I do not confuse the concept of value and productivity. Obviously, a programmer from a small office in the Kostroma region may be more productive than a developer from Google - despite the fact that the value of the second is higher. But we are interested in a specific company and the advisability of introducing a four-day work week in it.


    On the one hand, we have a study with the empirical concept of happiness and its effect on productivity, as well as successful experience in introducing a four-day work week in a small company from New Zealand.

    On the other hand, we have macroeconomic evidence of the absence of a relationship between the number of working hours and labor productivity, expressed in dollars. Therefore, I believe that a four-day work week is a harmful tale not only for managers, but also for the economy of a country. Contrary to common sense and only thanks to human laziness, the idea captured the minds of many.

    If you are interested in such considerations that do not fit into the format of a full-fledged article, then subscribe to my channel . Many thanks to all for your attention.

    Only registered users can participate in the survey. Please come in.

    Do you plan to reduce the working week in your company to 4 days?

    • 52.1% Yes 97
    • 47.8% No 89

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