Article by Marco Crescenzi, President of Social Change School
Is it still sustainable to work 8 hours a day? 8 hours that of course become 10-11 between lunch breaks, transport, and small overtime. Hours that end up stressing and depressing couples, family, and social relationships, and increasing management costs by 10-20% (babysitter, takeout food, etc). Even in the Third Sector, organizational intoxication due to self-exploitation “for the cause” has reached its peak, also due to invasive home working.
In “The Burnout Society” the philosopher Byung-Chul Han dramatically analyses how we are becoming more and more our own victims/executioners. We have gone from a “Disciplinary Society” (“I must”) to a “Performance Society” (“I can”), from subjects of (external) obedience to subjects of performance (and burn out). We have internalized hyper-performance as a value and measure of ourselves. What, in my youthful readings, was Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man, is now (we are) a two-faced monster; one is the “hyper-consumer” and the other is the “hyper-worker”.
What should we do? Work (and consume) less. Better. (Almost) all.
I believe we will have to reflect, also basing ourselves on a growing number of international experiences, on setting a limit of 30/32 hours per week (flexible part time), compared to 40 hours of a full contract. It means 25% of time gained (a four-day work week, the wonder of having a free Friday or Monday! Or maybe 6-hour long workdays with no lunch break – e.g. 8.30-14.30 – except for those with different needs). With the same wages if we reach the same goals by working more efficiently, or with small salary cuts that on a part time would not be more than 15-20%, maybe it will make employees save on babysitting, or cars, or other costs caused by having “too little time”.