Working Less Brings Many Benefits

Yesterday I got a chance to watch an excellent movie and read almost the entire NY Times. Watching movies on Sunday afternoon is far more enjoyable than falling asleep during a nighttime screening. Among the interesting articles in the Times was a piece in the Week in Review about the benefits of the slowdown. We’re finally getting more time off!

Americans are famous for working too many hours a week and not taking enough vacation. Well, the recession of course is changing that. Now, furloughs and slowdowns are giving many of us a lot more time off. A friend who works at a New York City ad agency was told last week that he’d be working four instead of five days a week. After the initial shock, and the cold calculus of losing 20% of their weekly income, it occurred him that now he could get back to his freelance jobs, and hopefully make up the difference that way.

More and more in these tough times I suggest that the answer to a slowdown or a layoff is to start your own business, or develop side businesses to augment ones income. In the article, Shaila Dewan mentions the historical precedent, during the Great Depression when Kellogg’s instituted a 30-hour workweek. The workers reached the same productivity in two years that they used to get in 40 hours and 85% of them liked the change despite the drop in pay.

Many people are hoping that this trend of shorter work weeks outlives the recession. In Atlanta where many city workers now go in four days a week, there have been fewer sick days, and other savings. I say this is progress, and hope that we all work a little less regardless of what the economy does.