Would you work 40 hours a week

Goodbye 40-hour week? According to scientists, the perfect work week looks like this

The 40-hour week and the nine-to-five job have been firmly anchored in our latitudes for many years. But digitization is shaking the foundations of our work models more and more. Working hours could be more flexible, the 6-hour working day has already been tested in various pilot projects and the first digital nomads no longer only have no fixed working hours, but not even a fixed place of residence. The possibilities for organizing the working week are more diverse than ever before. Scientists have therefore now dealt with the question: What does the “perfect work week” actually look like?

1. Generation Y calls for new working time models
2. Lots of possibilities, that means a lot of excessive demands on the employer side
3. The “perfect” work week: what does it look like?
4. The 40-hour working week has had its day
5. The trend is towards work-life integration
6. Is the four-hour day the way out of the dilemma ...
7. ... or the 32-hour week?
8. Industry 4.0 could make the “perfect work week” a reality
9. Conclusion: Our chance for the “perfect work week” is now!

Generation Y is calling for new working time models

Most Germans work between 35 and 45 hours a week.

You can find more statistics at Statista

If you are unlucky you have to be in business from “9 am to 5 am” - or something like that. If you are lucky, you can divide your working hours outside of core hours more or less flexibly thanks to the flexitime model. A few years ago that was still a maximum of freedom. These days, the thought of that might give you a furtive smile. Flexitime models are antiquated. The employee of the future will work remotely.

In the course of advancing digitization, modern means of communication have created completely new possibilities for flexible time management. Generation Y in particular, the so-called “digital natives”, are well versed in using smartphones, the World Wide Web, Skype & Co. Why waste an hour a day in the traffic jam when you could work with your laptop from the comfort of your own home? Why get all your colleagues together for a meeting when this is also possible across national borders via Skype or video conference? Why sit in the office from “nine-to-five” when you could do the same job on Saturdays, at midnight or from “six-to-three” so that you are ready in time to pick up the children from school?

Reading tip: "Study: Generation Y longs for independence"

What may sound like a dream of the future for older generations is already part of everyday life for younger and much sought-after specialists. They make new demands on their employer - and flexible working hours as well as modern working models such as home office or remote work are at the top of the list. They demand a degree of self-determination, flexibility and personal freedom that was previously only conceivable in self-employment. Many employers are still reluctant to take this development, but that will change in the near future. How so? Because the shortage of skilled workers puts Generation Y in a better negotiating position and if the employer does not go along with them, they simply switch to the competition.

Lots of opportunities, that means a lot of excessive demands on the employer side

The fact that this rethinking is difficult for many employers is also due to the fact that they are overwhelmed by the numerous new options for structuring working hours. New control systems have to be developed so that workers in the home office don't just put their feet up. The coordination and communication of teams needs a thorough renovation. A whole new level of trust is needed between employees and employers. And finally, a modern digital infrastructure is also required.

  • Is eight hours a day really the best work model, or is it more like six?
  • Do more working hours mean more work at the same time?
  • How free can the working hours be for remote work?

There are a lot of questions in the room. Employers - and many employees too - do not know where to start with the development of the “perfect work model” thanks to the new time sovereignty. We'll tell you: First of all, you should clarify the most fundamental of all questions on the subject, namely what does the “perfect work week” look like? Because, as is well known, you can only achieve a goal if you have defined it beforehand.

The “perfect work week”: what does it look like?

If employers, employees, self-employed and digital nomads are now looking for the “perfect work week”, they do not have to find any new approaches, according to scientists. Instead, you need to take a look back and get inspiration from Sigmund Freud. Before starting work, he took an hour for a hearty breakfast and a little beauty treatment. After lunch there was a short walk and it was over at nine in the evening.

“Individual freedom is not a cultural asset.
It was greatest before any culture. "
(Sigmund Freud)

Not only Sigmund Freud enjoyed his individual freedom. For his part, the French writer Victor Hugo also used to rarely start work before 6 p.m. - for around two hours. If you want to label him as "lazy", you should read through the 56 works he left behind. It is not without reason that he is considered one of the greatest - if not the greatest - authors in France. 40-hour week? Fixed working hours? Are you kidding me? Are you serious when you say that!

The 40-hour working week has had its day

Working just two or four hours a day sounds utopian these days. Even the six-hour working day, as it was introduced as a pilot project in Sweden, for example, is viewed more critically worldwide - despite outstanding results: increased productivity, more satisfaction and more stable health among employees. The list could go on for a long time.

Reading tip: "6-hour working day - fairy tales or soon in Germany too?"

But our day-to-day work is becoming more and more complex. On the one hand, the workload seems to be increasing more and more. On the other hand, it is propagated that we will all soon be replaced by robots anyway.

Many employees complain of constant time pressure. It feels like you have to do more work in less time. In many cases, this feeling is not wrong. But this is not related to the increasing workload worldwide, but to the radical savings mania that has apparently infected all companies in our western industrial society. Unfortunately, it is thought too seldom and too late that the one always-stressed employee will eventually get sick and the employer will be more expensive than investing in a second employee as relief, so that both can stay healthy and productive in the long term.

"I also put money aside, but on the wrong one."
(Jules Renard)

Current studies also show that whether this employee works eight or six hours a day doesn't even make a difference in terms of productivity. Scientists therefore agree: the future of working hours lies outside the 40-hour week - and below that.

The trend is towards work-life integration

More precisely, it will be more and more difficult in the future to count the exact number of hours per week. Because work and leisure are beginning to merge. Routines and regular working hours give way to so-called "work-life integration".

  • Work an hour
  • then have breakfast,
  • bring the children to school
  • stop by the supermarket on the way home,
  • work another two hours,
  • do a little sport
  • Cooking dinner,
  • work an hour
  • get the kids back from school and
  • in the evening, when they are in bed, work two to three hours more ...

... the "normal" working day could look like this or something like that for you shortly. Anyone who works independently of time and location can perfectly balance everyday work with leisure time. The work-life balance becomes work-life integration.

Reading tip: “Work-life balance was yesterday! The new goal is work-life integration "

But if you quickly check your e-mails on your smartphone again before going to bed and the boss can also be reached on vacation, that makes you feel good too the downside of work-life integration is noticeable: constant availability. It quickly becomes a health burden. Because switching off from work is almost an impossibility for more and more people. So thoughts revolve around work 24/7. The body is under constant stress. The urgently needed relaxation periods are interrupted by incoming emails or calls from the office. So it's no wonder that the diagnosis is more and more often "burnout".

Reading tip: "Burnout: How sick does constant availability make you?"

Is the four-hour day the way out of the dilemma ...

Anders Ericsson, author of the book "Peak: How All of Us Can Achieve Extraordinary", is certain: The four-hour workday is the solution to the problem. In the course of his research, he came to the conclusion that Nobel Prize winners, like many professional athletes and successful musicians, only work concentrated and efficiently for four hours a day. The rest of the time they spend on sideline jobs - or just leisure activities. Ericsson also noticed the unusual time management of these "successful people": They take frequent breaks of 15 to 20 minutes, usually after an hour of continuous concentration at the latest.

Reading tip: "I need a break: this is how you take your breaks correctly"

In fact, the experts seem to agree: Working five days in a row for eight or more hours at a time with few breaks is anything but useful for a person's productivity. The pilot tests for the six-hour working day have already shown that many employees are not only just as productive in six hours as they are in eight hours, but also because of a better work-life balance, reduced stress, increased satisfaction and better health in the long term even more productive. Even those who only work four hours a day will only perform slightly less than in eight hours - if they use these four hours efficiently and divide them “correctly”.

... or the 32-hour week?

Jason Fried, founder of Basecamp, also relies on the number four. Instead of four hours a day, his employees work four days a week for eight hours each. Since the introduction of the 32-hour week, his employees are better able to set priorities correctly and thus not only achieve the same performance as before with the 40-hour week, but even in better quality. In addition, they are mentally and physically healthier, according to the progressive entrepreneur.

Industry 4.0 could make the “perfect work week” a reality

Whether four hours a day or four days a week, such a “perfect work week” seems unrealistic to many Germans. But at this point another magical four comes into play: According to experts, Industry 4.0 could create the basis for such paradisiacal working hours. So far, many people fear that their jobs will be replaced by robots in the near or distant future, but in most cases this fear will remain unfounded.

Instead, scientists see technological progress as an opportunity to use computers, robots and the like to make working hours so efficient in the future that four hours a day or four days a week could suddenly be sufficient - across the board. But not only the working hours, but also the entire way of working, as we are used to them, could change fundamentally as a result. The trend is towards "freelancers" or "e-lancers". People could work independently of time and place, “hook up” to projects and organize their work content and work rhythm individually. Once one project has been completed, the next follows - perhaps at the same company or at a different one.

In some industries, this could be a realistic forecast.

Conclusion: Our chance for the “perfect work week” is now!

With all the uncertainties about what the future will ultimately bring, one thing seems surprisingly clear: The changes will be major - also in terms of work models and working hours. The rigid “nine-to-five job” has had its day. Now it is up to employers and employees to find new models to replace them. It is by no means too early to prepare for the age of robots, big data and the like. And if changes are pending anyway, wouldn't this be the ideal time to lay the foundations for the “perfect work week”? Whether that will ultimately be in the form of a comprehensive four-hour working day or whether we will all be freelancers who work independently of time and location is still in the stars.

What do you think the working hours of the future could look like? What would your personal dream be? And do you think such models are realistic or not? We look forward to your discussion in the comments!

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Photo credits: © twinsterphoto - Fotolia.com


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