Podcast: Expanding the Compressed Workweek

With all the changes brought about by Covid-19, you might not be surprised to hear about a huge uptick in research on the effects of shortened work weeks. You might be surprised to hear that this sudden burst of scholarly interest began – and ended – in the 1970s. What did our (presumably) bell-bottomed forebears learn about the pros and cons of ditching the traditional five-day workweek? Why did it take a pandemic to rekindle our interest? 

Episode Transcript:

Frank Butler  0:17  
Hello Busybodies, welcome to another episode of the Busyness Paradox. I’m Frank Butler here with Paul Harvey.

Paul Harvey  0:23  
Good day, Frank 

Frank Butler  0:24  
Here’s Johnny now, good day. Johnny Carson, folks

Paul Harvey  0:32  
For the five of you that are old enough to remember Johnny Carson.

Frank Butler  0:35  
That’s right. That’s right. So today, we’re going to explore a shortened work week. And we’re doing this in light of an interview that we’re going to have upcoming with somebody whose organization specializes in reducing work weeks for companies, and I don’t want to give away this prize, and I don’t want to give away the details or take away from her mojo. So we’re just going to leave that out there. And just talk about what the research has found. And we’re not going to dive into the specifics. We’re not going to get into any of that, oh, here, these authors did this. And we’re gonna give you all that. That scientific mumbo jumbo, we’re gonna give it to you guys in practical real world, discussion type terms. 

Paul Harvey  1:18  
And we’re not going to talk about the longitudinal three-way interaction between work week, shoe size, and astrological sign.

Frank Butler  1:28  
Man that astrological let…you know I was surprised by the findings of that the significance factor, there 

Paul Harvey  1:32  
Oh yeah

Frank Butler  1:32  
It was incredible. 

Paul Harvey  1:33  
That’s the whole ballgame. 

Frank Butler  1:34  
Oh, man, right. And then when you looked at the beta and the confidence intervals, sorry, folks, that’s not what we’re going to do.

Paul Harvey  1:42  
Everything I prepared is just useless.

Frank Butler  1:46  
Now well, so we’re just gonna have to wing it

Paul Harvey  1:48  
We’ll wing it. 

Frank Butler  1:48  
So actually, though, we did spend some time really diving into the research that has been done on compressed workweeks. Now, again, this might not be the idea of our guest that’s upcoming. But broadly, we wanted to just step into this idea of what’s been out there, what’s been done, and sort of the findings of this. And the first thing of note, was the lack of really recent research. 

Paul Harvey  2:15  
Yeah, apparently, this was all the rage in the 1970s. 

Frank Butler  2:18  

Paul Harvey  2:18  
If any listeners are old enough to have been around in the 70s, and have any insight, I mean, we were around in the 70s. But not old enough to be aware of anything. Was this like a Jimmy Carter thing? What made this popular as a topic of research in the 70s. And then it just went away? After that?

Frank Butler  2:39  
Well, in going down that it was interesting, because it does seem that it was really popular in the 70s and early 80s, and then just kind of went away. Now there is this one paper that I had found, and this is from 1977. And again, this one’s not getting into like crazy details or stats or anything like that. But it does say here, reduced work hours is one of the most controversial issues regarding workloads and productivity. Since the early 60s organized labor have been actively seeking legislative support for a standard 35 Hour Workweek. Their claim that shorter work hours resulted in significantly increased efficiency and output per hour was not, however, been supported by many actual case studies in the United States industry.

Paul Harvey  3:26  
Case study. What good is…

Frank Butler  3:28  
Right the…case studies are hard to generalize. For all the social, physical and physiological advantages of shorter work hours, workers, in most cases, choose longer hours when they can in order to increase income.

Paul Harvey  3:42  
Now in the US, that’s always been the standard thing.

Frank Butler  3:44  

Paul Harvey  3:45  
Given the option of more hours or more money in the US, historically, we’ve always chosen that route, other countries not so much.

Frank Butler  3:52  
And here, you know, for example, if you are hourly, and you work beyond the 40 hours, you get time and a half, which is a huge enhancement to your your money in your pocket. I think broadly speaking, that’s a huge cause for organizations to have that overtime pay, although the workers benefit from it. But there has been no shortage of research that has looked at productivity declines, from more hours being worked, right. So the more hours you work in a week, the more mistakes that happen and so on. And actually we have a study that actually gets into those details where it does talk about the the number of issues goes up pretty drastically after about 40 hours.

Paul Harvey  4:32  
Yeah. And that’s actually been one of the critiques against a compressed work week. If it’s done in the form of shrinking a five day week down to four days, but you’re doing four 10-hour days instead of five eight-hour days. Because those extra two hours in one day, for a lot of people, it pushes you into that cognitive exhaustion phase, where even if you don’t feel it and the other the proof is in the pudding, you make more mistakes, you are more likely to get into an accident on the way home things of that nature.

Frank Butler  4:59  
I think those are all extremely sort of important things to note, right? It’s like safety for your people, you know, in just about at home, like, what do you what are you missing? Right, you know, some of the things that we’ve seen happen in the past thinking about parent being so exhausted and leaving their kids in the car and a hot day, right. I mean, a lot of times that has been passed off as being somebody who’s overly exhausted. And how I’m talking about the non-intentional cases that though…

Paul Harvey  5:31  
I would hope they’re mostly non-intentional cases, but

Frank Butler  5:33  
We had that one recently in Georgia.

Paul Harvey  5:35  
I know, I know, ugh. I’m thinking of when my, my daughter was a newborn, and I’m sure I told you about this Frank. When I drove to work one day, I probably slept like 45 minutes the previous week or something, and parked my park my truck, this faculty parking lot, actually saw a friend of mine for my department was also pulling in like kind of waved got out. We walked off from the parking lot to our building together. And I went back later that day to drive home. Where’s my truck? I know, I know, I parked here like I’m positive I park here, and I’m looking around. And finally I just kind of look up at the edge of the parking lot it typical New Hampshire just turned straight into woods. There’s my little black truck 20 feet into the woods sitting up against the tree. I didn’t put the e-brake on.

Frank Butler  6:24  
I was I was worried you that you left your daughter in the car all day. Because that’s how it sounded at first. I’m glad it was just to…

Paul Harvey  6:32  
I could see how you thought that’s where it was going.

Frank Butler  6:37  
She She just did a Maggie Simpson and engaged the car in gear and drove off on her own right.

Paul Harvey  6:42  
Yeah, that’s probably almost certainly what she would have done. But yeah.

Frank Butler  6:45  
So just just to clarify, folks, she was not in the car.

Paul Harvey  6:49  

Frank Butler  6:50  
Just that he was exhausted and had failed to engage the brake. At least it didn’t hit somebody else’s vehicle.

Paul Harvey  6:50  
Well, that’s the amazing thing is that, from what I can tell it, like rolled forward shortens a stick shift. So no, like Park or whatever. And went through to other cars were parked, and there was like an open spot, maybe two open spots between them, like went through those other two cars it would seem and just kept on going until it just rolled into a tree, you know, a dent in the bumper, but man could have been a whole lot worse.

Frank Butler  7:19  
Yeah, for real, right. I mean, it could have been.

Paul Harvey  7:22  
I’m just wondering what people thought all day, like, why is there a truck just in the woods over there?

Frank Butler  7:27  
Drunk, honestly. Drunk driver left their car on their heads. Right. But yeah.

Paul Harvey  7:32  
I mean, it’s that’s how easy it is to do something stupid when you’re exhausted. Right.

Frank Butler  7:36  
And so I think that goes back to thinking about things that we are focused on, on improving in organizations. You know, think about OSHA, for example, OSHA was established with the very thing in mind to help prevent workplace injuries, you think about the overtime rule, right? Where if you’re working more than 40 hours in a non salaried job, that’s supposed to be a penalty to the organization. It’s supposed to encourage more structured shift roles, those kinds of things.

Paul Harvey  8:05  
Which is interesting, because it’s often viewed as like a punishment to not give employees overtime. Right, at least in some companies in some industries. Certainly an hourly jobs that I had back in the day, people were were all jockeying for those overtime hours.

Frank Butler  8:18  
Yeah, exactly. Now, I think another thing if we’re gonna really think about this, historically, we talked about it way back, and I think maybe in our introductory episode of the Busyness Paradox, not the first one, but the second one. And we talked about the, the etymology of the word busyness and business and how they’re related. But I think we also got into the history of how Henry Ford was the first one to introduce a shorter work week, because it helped him attract labor, which that has continued to be found in a lot of these studies is that it’s easier to track people when you have, you know, better working setup.

Paul Harvey  8:54  
What else, what we can say with pretty much certainty is that it makes you a more attractive employer, like widens your applicant pool, when you offer flexibility in the form of shortened work weeks, or flexibility in general, I suppose.

Frank Butler  9:09  
Right. And I think the other thing that we started to see happening, which is probably why this also occurred, is that in the 60s and 70s, we start to see a much larger uptick in women entering the workforce as well. It does say he

Paul Harvey  9:23  
Think you’ve cracked the code on that

Frank Butler  9:24  
This was a paper done called Hours of Work job satisfaction and productivity by Ravinder Nanda and James Brown in the public productivity review of 1977. Now, you know, it’s nice to get into the history of these things, sometimes to understand it, but it says here, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are more working housewives, freelance workers and temporary workers to meet seasonal demands. And so they’re seeing this huge increase in part time work here, right. So they have seen a increase over 60% in part time employment over the last 15 years. Now, keep in mind, this was 1977. So we go back, we can see that that’s really happening in the 60s. And we’re seeing this accelerate over time. And I think this is another thing that we don’t really take into account as well, with the greater numbers of dual income families are just men and women in the workplace, full time labor today, right? I mean, if you look at it, men and women are both working full time having families. And you think about the huge amount of productivity that we get out of that alone, right, and just trying to think about full employment, which we kind of are sitting at right now, in our economy. I mean, I think our unemployment is the lowest it’s been in decades. If you think about it, it’s like, hey, how do we continue to maintain that great momentum? Well, part of it, let’s look at the Labor aspect of it. Right, let’s focus in on how can we leverage this to improve, you know, the environment for our people? Now, it’s difficult if you can’t fill all your jobs, right. That’s the other challenge.

Paul Harvey  11:02  
Yeah. Like, what’s the expression I’m looking for? Like? The opposite of the silver lining, you know, like the

Frank Butler  11:08  
Yeah this is the downside. This is the darkness.

Paul Harvey  11:15  
That’s where I come in to offer up the darkness. This is a great thing. Here’s a problem.

Frank Butler  11:20  
Hello, darkness, my full employment, it’s a problem.

Paul Harvey  11:26  
Problem. People getting paid enough. Not good, man. Not good. Well, heck.

Frank Butler  11:30  
You know, we talked about that, too, about how it’s kind of like a being adjusted for inflation three or 4% Still doesn’t keep you up to standards. Although I did just see that the it looks like the inflation might be starting to slow down for the latest reports. So

Paul Harvey  11:48  
Last month, I saw was like we’ve gone from 8.5 to 8.3. Like.

Frank Butler  11:53  
Yay, but it’s it’s an indicator that we’re slowing down.

Paul Harvey  11:58  
That was like, three weeks ago, though. So you might be seeing more recent stuff

Frank Butler  12:02  
Just saw today. Yeah, it was new data. So I’m, I don’t know what, which, you know, outlet that was in. But I did see that it was starting to show a decline? As we say we’ll take it right. We’ll take it. So those are actually good things. Because usually we seen already spending based on the earnings reports, people who are spending a little less in retail environments because of the inflation. So which is nice eating the gas prices.

Paul Harvey  12:27  
I feel like Maysville spend it man just going to get eroded in your bank account. Right? Probably not very healthy financial advice. But

Frank Butler  12:34  
I don’t think Dave Ramsey would appreciate that.

Paul Harvey  12:36  
I don’t think so. That’s how I justify irresponsible impulse purchase.

Frank Butler  12:42  
We have an episode on living cheaply, too. So go back to that one. So you can retire what is it? The the fire model? Right? Yeah.

Paul Harvey  12:49  
Financial Independence retire early. That’s right. I think I need to go back and listen to that. I’ve lost my way, in the month since then.

Frank Butler  12:59  
So I, there’s been a lot of changes going on. And we’re in this kind of unique environment. But I think that doesn’t mean that we’re not able to do more to help our employees find better work life balance. And I’m not a huge fan of calling it work life balance. I just think it’s like, just let’s find a way of getting people to be able to take care of the things they need to do both personally and at work. Right. I get that kind of work life balance.

Paul Harvey  13:24  
That is the definition. I think it’s the declaration, I get what you’re saying. Yeah.

Frank Butler  13:29  
I mean, it’s just, it sounds too much like, Oh, you want personal time. I need to be able to live, but I don’t want my work to take away my ability to live right. And I get that that’s sort of the definition I find that work life balance might not encapsulate that in such a in your face way.

Paul Harvey  13:46  
I think as soon as work for a lot of people invaded the home via the smartphone, and you’re doing emails at night and stuff like that. I think the idea of work life as separate entities is if not antiquated, it’s well on its way to being antiquated.

Frank Butler  14:02  
Yeah, exactly. And I think that’s part of the reason why I don’t like the name work life because they are so blurred in today’s environment, which is why I’m like, you know, if you can allow telecommuting as much as you can do it, you know, so work from home remote work, whatever.

Paul Harvey  14:17  
Is actually interesting. It’s kind of like we’ve gone back to the medieval era when people had like, so identified with their trade that it would often be their name.

Frank Butler  14:24  
Oh, yeah, that’s

Paul Harvey  14:27  
Something people didn’t they go out a blacksmith and your name would be black Smith. Smith

Frank Butler  14:30  
Smith. Right. Yeah. Shoemaker. Yeah. You know, that was

Paul Harvey  14:35  
Just who you are like, You did this as a job and sometimes you work and sometimes you didn’t, but there was no like, dividing line between the two things. Really. I think we’re kind of back towards that a little bit, which isn’t bad in and of itself a bad or good thing. But I think yeah, we need to recognize it for what it is and stop pretending that we have these like separate domains for furloughed jobs. Not all jobs, obviously.

Frank Butler  14:56  
What’s old is new again, right? That’s right, like the 70s came back and close.

Paul Harvey  15:00  
In everything like electric cars and 70, school, electric cars, I

Frank Butler  15:03  
Mean, people probably don’t realize that actually Ferdinand Porsche’s first vehicle he designed was a electric vehicle. We’ve come full circle gardens. Yeah, yep, we have. But uh, I think, again, you know, thinking about this whole idea of the workforce and taking care of our people in managing this blurring of the lines of work in life, it’s good to think about how do we deal with that, but then there’s the other end of it, we talked about it with a Canadian economics idea of, you know, we’ve increased productivity and productivity so much, you know, so substantially, that the fact that we still expect work to be done at the extent we haven’t done doesn’t seem to really jive. And a lot of the

Paul Harvey  15:45  
The new rephrase that maybe. So, you expect work to be done.

Frank Butler  15:50  
We expect you to still work 40 hours, I guess, to do the same work, even though I gotcha, you know, where so much we haven’t, we recorded an episode that we haven’t released, and we probably will at some point, but Apple had released their new processors, their M one. And the productivity gains were so substantial in compiling code, that these major software or tech firms bought them to replace all of their existing computers, because it would increase the productivity of their programmers like exponentially like it was exponential increases, right? Usually, a company is not going to wholesale it replace all their computers in one go. And that just shows you how powerful that is.

Paul Harvey  16:29  
Exactly. Instead of just, you know, gradually switching to the newer technology, the productivity gain was so big that it was worth the cash outlay to just go all in all at once. And that that doesn’t happen every day. But the number of those leaps that we’ve had in the last 100 years is just stupid. And yet the working week is clearly shorter than it was 100 years ago. But to your point about what was his first name canes? Oh, yeah. That guy, that guy who predicted that, you know, by like, 2000. Ish? What would he say? We’d be Oregon, like 15 hours a week or something like that. That was

Frank Butler  17:07  
It was something ridiculous, right? It was like 60 years from when he wrote it when? 33 I think it was a 30? Yeah. 32 It was his grandchildren. Right?

Paul Harvey  17:15  
Yeah. So by, by right now, anyway, that we would have been working about 15 hours a week, that would constitute a full time work week, because that was would be the only way that everyone could have a full time job. This if we like cut it back that much. And you know, if you do the math, like the productivity gains theory, we probably could have gotten there. If you think about how much time you spent at work, doing busy work, and goofing off killing time. You know, some ways we sort of are there.

Frank Butler  17:39  
Yeah. And I’m not gonna name any names. But I have a colleague, friend of mine, who works at a manufacturing firm. And they just he just implemented a plan of having workers do 3d 36 hour work week. They do have to double their hiring, but they did the math, and they ended up looking at saving approximately $10 million just from doing that, you know, because there’s, there’s more than just simply the pay side of it right, without paying overtime. There’s the air side of it. There’s all sorts of different things. And I’m sure they’re unlike some things, I think they probably adjusted the pay to be 36 hours. But if that’s considered full time, and you’re still giving benefits, I think you still come out ahead.

Paul Harvey  18:17  
Say there has to be a labor labor savings involved with that somewhere. But yeah, which makes me think I don’t think we’ve ever brought this up before. Maybe it’s topic for another time. But I wonder why doctors, nurses, like surgeons, like they work those monster shifts, like 40 straight hours all in one go. And then they’re off for the next six days or whatever. I wonder why they do that. If there’s any job where cognitive sharpness was important, I would think it would be like brain surgeon.

Frank Butler  18:44  
Yeah, I think the more specialized you go, they don’t do that. Right. Those who are Yeah, I think, like my dad’s cardiologist, I think pretty much only worked from like, six to three years, something like that, though, because he would do surgeries, and then he would meet with patients. And then he was done. Yeah.

Paul Harvey  18:59  
Actually, you’re right. It’s like the residents and stuff that you hear about doing like those monster marathon shifts.

Frank Butler  19:04  
Yeah. And I think it’s usually the hospital workers that are like, like, full time kind of stuff. Right, the more kind of emergency care because you know, if you think about it, like your OBGYN is not on call 24/7. Right. They show up when they’re on clock, and if they don’t happen to be there, one spouse is giving birth.

Paul Harvey  19:22  
I mean, I don’t have an OBGYN myself. But yes, well, yeah.

Frank Butler  19:25  
I’m talking about Yeah, when you guys had your, you know, Ella.

Paul Harvey  19:28  
Right. And I’m thinking when Lily worked in hospital. She wasn’t in the ER with cardiac wing or whatever. The Norham, at least in that hospital was 312 hour shifts a week. Yeah. And that counted for 40 hours. Yeah.

Frank Butler  19:45  
That’s not uncommon in that sector. And I think it makes sense though, to because I think this allows them to handle the days much better, right? Because it just means that you can get two shifts in 24 hours, versus having to maybe do three shifts over four days you know if I think about chunking it out because I know like they’re also do overtime right and overtime like yeah beautiful for for 

Paul Harvey  20:06  
Oh my god yeah.

Frank Butler  20:07  
Fourth day sometimes and really make some bank doing it.

Paul Harvey  20:12  
Uh huh. She made, she would make bank whenever she would do a fourth day

Frank Butler  20:16  
Specialties though and they kill it right? I think manufacturing is the one where they get dumped on the most, because you’re just doing the assembly. Yeah. So you know, the beauty of the assembly line means that we get a lot of easy to fix or swappable pieces, you know, standardization, all those kinds of building large quantities to reduce costs, right, the economies of scale, I think there’s a lot of benefits to it. But I think it also means that you really take away the ability to specialize in a trade, and you become more replaceable replaceable, which means that you probably don’t command the same premiums.

Paul Harvey  20:47  
Which was the whole I…that’s the design of what do you call that? Mass production assembly line stuff. But I when I was working in manufacturing, I wasn’t on the shop floor. But I felt like there was a bit of a happy medium there, like it was standardized work. But it wasn’t quite the assembly line. Like you just turn one bolt all day long every day. Like there was like, operator a degree of autonomy. They’re making like turbine blades and stuff. And you know, some were better at it than others.

Frank Butler  21:20  
I think you’re more specialized. Like I see that too, with places that make guitars, for example, in production, right? That there’s a lot more there, there needs to be more hands on. But if you look at like, people putting cars together, there, there’s some groups that are specialized, that are for the most part, you’re just slapping stuff in there, and then just keeping it going. And, and I think that’s where the that’s the kind of assembly line stuff the iPhone, right? There’s not people specialized in there just putting that stuff together. And it’s just the numbers game.

Paul Harvey  21:49  
Come down to the torque of every little screw is exactly the same. Yeah, yeah, it’s

Frank Butler  21:53  
Already built into the machine, right? It’s just, but just kind of advancing our idea, though. One of the things that we did see, there’s a meta analysis that is older, and if you’re not sure, if you’re not aware of what a meta analysis is, is basically a way of taking all this quantitative data and putting it together to say, hey, what’s the overall sort of outcomes?

Paul Harvey  22:12  
Everyone should be aware of what a meta analysis is. So when you hear on media outlets, like the study just recently showed, it will often be like one study showed some weird thing and no other studies has ever shown that thing, but you’ll hear about the other ones. So a meta analysis takes all the relevant empirical research on one, whatever the thing is that you’re looking at, and says, What did all these studies find across the board? So if you got 500, different studies that are all looking at the effects of a shortened work week on productivity, say, Oh, those like weird little outlier studies will get washed out by the majority of studies that find generally similar things. So it’s always better to get your information from a meta analysis, a collection of data, as opposed to just one single empirical one off that might be a fluke.

Frank Butler  23:00  
That’s something important to keep in mind is that some of this stuff is potentially Fluke ish, right? I mean, that you just have sort of a Yeah, I get these studies I get out there that are really poorly done, and they get through because of the quality journal is gonna matter those kinds of things. And the average person doesn’t know that.

Paul Harvey  23:19  
Everyone’s research but mine is surprise…surprisingly bad.

Frank Butler  23:25  
But we did find is that here, this one meta analysis, looked at flexible work week schedules and compressed work week schedules on productivity, performance, job satisfaction, absenteeism, and satisfaction with the work schedule. And for the most part, both were overwhelmingly positive on those. So that means that people have more productivity, better performance, higher levels of jobs at lower levels of absenteeism, and satisfaction with the work schedule. However, for example, the compressed workweek did not affect absenteeism, absenteeism didn’t change there, which I thought was interesting.

Paul Harvey  23:57  
Now that they control, or accom, so back to the absenteeism thing, and thinking if you work 40 hours a week and you miss one day, you’ve missed 25% of the work week. So did they account for that in any way? Or is it just like raw numbers, these…

Frank Butler  24:13  
Taking correlation, right? So they’re just looking at the correlation of the other studies. So there? Yeah. Sorry. There, folks. That’s one of the challenges with the meta analysis that you do want to dive in. And of course, there’s a lot of effort in here. But I think broadly, what we see is that there’s benefits now, I think what was interesting, though, is that highly flexible, flex time programs were less effective in comparison to the less flexible programs. This goes back to what Paul and I talked about last year was structure. Structure matters. When the structure is not there, it doesn’t work. If you provide some structure, you start seeing benefits from that. So for example, that one of the things we talked about in the past was the unlimited vacation time, but that actually leads to people taking less of it. So if you give them a set number, they’re more likely to use it. So there’s some structure in there. And that’s the idea of providing structure. If you have less of it, people are not going to get the benefits of it. Because they don’t know what’s okay to do. Right. I think that’s part of it. It’s like, what are the boundaries of which I can operate in?

Paul Harvey  25:15  
I’m kind of proud of society with that. It’s one of those counterintuitive things that you would think, Oh, my God, I’m gonna have to sit there trying to explain to people why unlimited vacation, I was bad for the next 20 years. But people seem to have kind of figured that out pretty quickly, like, okay, yeah, that was something that sounded good, but not so much. 

Frank Butler  25:32  
Now, keep in mind, too, a lot of these studies, do look at it, in terms of the shortened work week is still being 40 hours, but in four days, right. And yeah, that’s a big not a huge proponent of that idea, either, because I think

Paul Harvey  25:44  
That is not…not equivalent. 

Frank Butler  25:46  
Yep. Now, this is a study they did this as well, they looked into this is 1977. Again, a lot of this stuff happened in 70s. And this looked at it for day, 40 Hour Work Week. And they found that in 13 month window, the workers who are doing that were more satisfied with their autonomy, personal worth job security, and pay. And they experience less anxiety and stress and perform better with regards to productivity than the group that did not switch to the four day 40 Hour Work Week. Now they did this in a single company. So they were able to actually have a control group and a test group. Now, what’s interesting, though, is that over 25 months, that went away, and I’m thinking that, you know, it’s happens with all of us, when it becomes normal, we try to find things to complain about, right? So there’s a new stabilization. So we got to take that into account. And I will give you guys all the best example of this. Academia being of professors tend to be rated as the number one best job to have, for myriad reasons, I believe, year over year in yet, if you talk to any faculty member about their work, and have them start getting into the complaint mode, it’s all the same. And you’re like, dude, you’ve clearly forgotten what it’s like to be in corporate.

Paul Harvey  27:00  
If you ever knew that you forgot in here.

Frank Butler  27:03  
I mean, we just we have a good I mean, yeah, we might work, sometimes 50 6070 hours a week, when we’re like, under deadlines, or whatever. It’s usually because we want to do them, right, we have much more flexibility and control over that we have a high level of autonomy, I guess, is what it is.

Paul Harvey  27:18  
You’re working on a study that you’re all amped up about. And even if you have like a hard deadline on it, it’s still like, that’s something you’ve kind of chosen to do.

Frank Butler  27:24  
Well, and yeah, you’re balancing other things, too. So you don’t have to just be you’re not doing just 60 hours on that one thing, right? I’m doing some class time, I’ve got some great, maybe I’m meeting external party to talk about something that you want to do with your students or what have you. I mean, there’s just so much excitement you can do. And you can control a lot of that, too. You don’t have to give yourself a 60 hour work week. If you’re good at some level of time management, we like to work linearly. So we have to check out that time.

Paul Harvey  27:51  
Yeah, I think if you did 40 hours of straight work. In almost any profession, especially this one, you would be a monster productivity

Frank Butler  28:00  
Monster, monster. And I think that’s the key is that productivity does have its boundaries, right? I mean, we all we all know, like, even in our case, if I’m working on a paper heavily for two, three days, like I’m going through this, just sprint to get stuff in there, and I keep reading through it, I’m getting close to the deadline, I’m gonna start missing the forest for the trees. That’s why it’s nice having a co author to me, you know, go over after you. So there’s value in, in being able to understand that you have to walk away, that’s another thing that they always recommend we do, right? It’s like you get something, you should put it in the drawer for a couple of weeks, and then come back to it after you’ve forgotten about it. So you read it with fresh eyes, you know, and so we have that luxury oftentimes, right? Anyway, so that kind of goes off tangent, but he 

Paul Harvey  28:41  
Well, that’s actually a really important thing, though. And I can’t believe I haven’t like talked us into doing an episode on this yet. But my pet research area of psychological entitlement, where no matter what your, your reality is, you end up finding things to complain about, even if it’s like you work one hour a week and you get paid a six figure salary. If that was normal, eventually you’re going to have the pitcher pneumonia that should be 45 minutes, not out. Which really is kind of, it’s hard as a manager or someone like trying to motivate employees, it’s like whatever you do, loses steam once it becomes the new normal, you know.

Frank Butler  29:17  
And I think that’s why we think about what do we do for growth? Right? What’s the you know, if you’re not going to just the scheduling, per se? What do you do for growth.

Paul Harvey  29:25  
You send people to a North Korean prison. I’ve been saying this for years, they come back, and they have a whole new appreciation for everything.

Frank Butler  29:32  
Well, you know, that’s one option. Thank you, maybe maybe a little bit more, violating some laws somewhere along the lines, but uh…

Paul Harvey  29:40  
I’m not a lawyer, you know, I leave that up to the HR people.

Frank Butler  29:44  
I think along the lines, though, depending on the type of job right, if you’re doing the same thing for 40 hours a week and four days, you get better at it right? Hopefully, yeah, you hopefully, obviously there’s certain jobs that you know, the job changes so drastically all the time. Like I just think about the requirements for accounting. Are always adjusting every year. And so you have to go and learn that. So you have to get a certain amount of credits of training. So you’re never really getting to a high level of efficiency, always, I would say, I would say you’d be pretty efficient 95% of your job, but it’s at 5%, that always changes that, you know, slows you down a little bit. But other jobs don’t really work that way, right? If you’re building a new model of a car, like from an assembly line from an old model, you know, once you get used to the small changes that are in there, you’re, you’re in it, right, you can produce more whatever. And I can see how that becomes sort of so highly routinized, you become really good and efficient at it, you’re like, I don’t need to be doing this for 40 hours. I’m bored now. Right? So I think there’s that level of how much how much in interaction you get in your job beyond just sort of that same, how many tasks are you responsible for handling, I think is probably a big part of it.

Paul Harvey  30:48  
And that varies a lot. And it’s impacted by I spent a lot of time in class on this task variety. For some people, they desperately want a job that has that 5%, that varies, like they want that to be a big part of the job, they don’t want every day to be exactly the same. And other people really want every day to be as identical to the one before at work as possible. So no surprises, I don’t know exactly what I’m going to be doing when I’m gonna be doing it. And perfectly reasonable to have either a preference, but it’s hard to design a job in a way that makes everybody happy. Because you’re gonna have like lots of variety and things changing, it’s going to make some people happy, and some people not so happy, right? And if you don’t, well, I

Frank Butler  31:27  
Think that’s when you try to encourage people to change jobs, right, you know, provide advancement opportunities for things, this isn’t a position for you, yeah, you know, either create promotional opportunities, or move them around or cross training them.

Paul Harvey  31:39  
Or don’t hire a person who’s not a good fit for the type of work it is in the first place.

Frank Butler  31:43  
Good, you know, attraction, selection, retention type things. So broadly speaking, what we were covering on this episode is really the compressed workweek, most of the research done has been looking at it as a 40 hour work week, I think a lot of that we kind of want to push up, push back against because of the productivity gains from, you know, just technology, broadly, and I think we’ve seen overall is that there’s a lot of benefits that have accrued from that, although the benefits do seem to kind of wear out over time. But keep in mind, these are old studies, right? If you think about immigrants, not found in 25 month data, I would, I would imagine it’s very different today, with all the greater blending of taking work home than we used to back in 1977, you’re not taking work home with you the same way. And so you would have a better quote unquote, work life balance. But today’s environment, that blending of those environments, has gotten to a point where it’s like, Hey, if you can spend less time in the office, and be better at managing your own schedule, so a little bit more flexible time stuff, with a shortened work week idea, or maybe the hours kind of get the the pressure of hours goes away, right? We kind of go, Hey.

Paul Harvey  32:54  
Exactly. A set of folk, we just get rid of the time aspect, like we keep saying and say this is your every week you do this, you know, however you need to do it to get it done. Like obviously, you got to make sure there’s other people involved in the process. And you can’t just like say, I’m gonna work from midnight to 5am. But you know, within reason, who cares? 40 hours, 38 hours, 62 hours, like, just

Frank Butler  33:16  
Be mindful as a manager, right? And be mindful on not to overload your employees with unnecessary deadlines than to right, like, be reasonable.

Paul Harvey  33:26  
But you do need to actually be stressful. They’re not doing crazy stuff, like, you know, just hypothetical, like some, some jackass like trying to multitask and record a podcast and submit their grades the same time. Like you don’t want that kind of stuff happening.

Frank Butler  33:39  
Paul’s got 13 minutes, because we’re gonna bout to hop off here.

Paul Harvey  33:41  
But now I just finished it. Oh, there we go. So yeah, 13 minutes to spare.

Frank Butler  33:46  
But if you’re an academic listening to this, we need more research in this area. And now it’s changed. I mean, I’ve seen a lot of flexible time with COVID. Telecommuting is out there. There’s a lot of work in telecommuting. What we need to focus in on though is, let’s look at not the compressed work week, and looking at four days at 40 hours, let’s look at things like four days and 36 hours, right, or 32 hours or whatever it would be like more of that, from an academic perspective. We’ve seen lots of companies do that. And we’ve seen a lot of countries bind to these kinds of ideas.

Paul Harvey  34:15  
Yeah, academics. If one of you publishes one more frickin study on like, the intersection of like the resource based view with Diet Coke consumption, like obscure crazy stuff, while this like really big, modern contemporary question is just hanging out there. Like how can we should we make this work week shorter? Let’s say let’s take a bite out of something that’s real

Frank Butler  34:36  
Gonna have real practical.

Paul Harvey  34:38  
Really important.

Frank Butler  34:39  
Important impacts on as we like to use work life balance, but let’s just talk about just having life. Right. So 

Paul Harvey  34:45  

Frank Butler  34:46  
So with that.

Paul Harvey  34:47  
I think my medieval life style thing is

Frank Butler  34:50  
Full circle

Paul Harvey  34:50  
The way to go here, by the way, full circle

Frank Butler  34:52  
Right and that’s a good one and you know, that’s going to be somewhere…we’re going to try to plug that into the church of niksen and 

Paul Harvey  34:58  
Not that Nixon 

Frank Butler  34:59  
Not that Nixon, thank you, but we’re really excited about our guest. Again, I don’t want to spoil it. I want to get into it when we get to it. There’s a reason why we’re talking about compressed workweeks. 

Paul Harvey  35:08  

Frank Butler  35:08  
And with that, good day.

Paul Harvey  35:10  
Good day. The Busyness Paradox is distributed by Paul Harvey and Frank Butler. Our theme music is adapted from its business time by Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie. Our production manager is Justin Wuntaek. We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode, and we’d love to hear from you. Please send any questions, comments or ideas for future episode topics to input@busynessparadox.com, or find us on Twitter. Also, be sure to visit our website, busynessparadox.com to read our blog posts and for links to the articles and other resources mentioned in today’s show. Finally, please take a moment to rate and follow or subscribe to our show on Apple podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Google Podcasts or…I don’t know, wherever the heck you get your podcasts.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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