The second richest man in the world, Carlos Slim, made a proposal this week that might excite employees around the globe. Slim, the Mexican telecom magnate, told those at a business conference that he thinks employers should move to shorter work weeks that promote increased leisure time for employees without losing productivity. His proposal had employees reporting to work only three days a week, giving workers four day weekends year-round. He believes that the shorter weeks would help to boost employee morale and increase leisure activities, which in turn would have a positive effect on the economy.
To make sure productivity does not decrease, Slim said workers would have to work longer while at work, such as eleven hour days, and also work later into life, such as retiring at age 70. These stipulations would allow workers to not see any reductions in their salaries even though they are working fewer hours and fewer days a week. With the extra weekend days, employees would come back to work more rested, increasing motivation and productivity for business, while also potentially benefiting employees’ health. The later retirement age could be a deterrent for some, but with longer life expectancies and more leisure time during the working years, Slim thinks that 70 years old would work for his proposal.
The idea of a compressed work week is nothing new, and it has been discussed since the 40 hour work week became the norm. The economist John Maynard Keynes predicted in the 1930s that due to increasing technology and production, workers would eventually be working 15 hour weeks. While his conclusion has not come true, his reasoning that productivity would increase is now easily seen in the market place. With technological advances, many jobs have become easier and more efficient, opening up the possibility for less work and more leisure time.
The idea of a three day work week sounds enticing for many workers, but a compressed work schedule is still just an idea at this point. Companies and businesses would be wary of forging ahead with a three day week while most of the world continues to operate on the five day schedule. Workers also might be wary of working into their 70s, as that could mean they spend up to fifty years working in the labor force. So while workers may dream about three day weeks, a shift by a large number of businesses in several countries would most likely be needed for the dream to become a reality.