Lazy Luddite Log

13.2.06

Four Day Week

Have been looking at a discussion which friend Bowie started on the topic of a staggered four day week (staggered so that the norm is for everyone to work four days but for those days to be distributed over all days of the week). It is an interesting notion that has been expressed in reverse by the likes of the Three Day Weekend Party (they exist and are only semi-joking). It is potentially attractive to those for whom rest and recreation as an important part of a civilised life. It may also be supported by those wanting more flexibility and productivity in the workforce. It is worth noting that these sort of changes may just happen over time rather than be imposed by government.

I am happy to steer away from any technical discussion of the economics of this issue (something best left to others). But I will say that such a thing may have interesting implications for cultural life. Society is segregated into 'shifts' with the majority in the Monday-to-Friday daytime shift and with a minority in other working patterns. Those with funny hours find themselves deprived of chances to participate fully in society because they are working while the rest of us are partying. The staggered four day week (any staggered week in fact) could change this by replacing the majority shift with many more different but overlapping shifts. This may then also have ecomomic impacts in terms of distribution of customers over the course of a week for the hospitality industry. What do others reckon?

On a personal note...

The rest of this post is unusually personal and introspective for me. It may be helpful for those who never seem to know what I do despite me telling them on numerous occasions.

What would the implications of a four-day week be for me? It would be attractive if it was secure. Four days worth of work would provide a sufficient income while three days off would provide sufficient time for all the other things in life. One day for recreation... one day for rest... one day for personal self-development or contribution to the community.

At present I have much more spare time than that in the average week. My clerical work only gives me a few days work a week (it is effectively a job-share scenario - something that I think is becoming more common). The spare time is nice and I honestly have no difficulty at all in filling it with whatever (it can be difficult sometimes however to account to others what I have done). The job is nice (the company are scarily nice) but more hours would be better simply for the sake of a better income. Some may suggest that I get a second job to take care of that. But then I consider the added complications of two jobs (different commutes and different work practices and different paper work to fill in) and get scared off. I am far too attached to continuity for my own good. Changes will occasionally be acted upon me and I quickly assimilate them into an otherwise same continuity.

"But what ever happened to the teaching Daniel?" I have recently completed (successfully) the part-time course to add primary teaching to my secondary teaching qualification. Bully for me. But the last teaching round I undertook left me reeling. Put it this way - how can I possibly make a group of twenty or so autonomous persons (of whatever age) do what I want them to do rather than what they want to do? Sure there are refinements in method that can be useful but I also feel there is a knack and it is a knack that I lack. I have always had that problem but have always dismissed it with reference to the circumstances (e.g. a bunch of mid-teens at an under-funded state school in a disadvantaged area will naturally give the emergency teacher an awful time). But what if it also happens with a nice bunch of sweet preps in the relatively controlled conditions of a supervised teaching round? For a long time now I had been assuming or hoping that my issues with teaching were particular rather than universal. I now think differently.

There is more to this than just one problematic teaching round. As I say it seems to have drawn attention to an issue that was always there. Then there have also been the stresses associated with a correspondence course. And the content of some of the course work which can be a tad wanky. And the fact that the teaching profession seems to be the biggest political football with parents and pressure groups and governments all wanting it to compensate for wider societal issues. And the holidays may be long but then your work follows you home every day. And then there is the Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT) that seems to exist only to charge fees and impose an additional layer of assessment onto new teachers. I think I want a simpler life than all that. And even if I do decide to go back into it I will be very selective in what I apply for.

None of this matters particularly. I have never been obsessed with any particular profession. As a child I never even had an answer to the question of what I want to be as an adult. Teaching was just something that seemed consonant with my skill-set and something I regarded as important. Now I think that answering customer phone calls and processing purchase orders (interspersed with playing with the Internet during the slack times) is just fine thanks. It's just a pity I spent such a long time to come to this conclusion. Take me back to the intersection marked 1996!

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4 Comments:

  • Hmm, one of the books on my to-read stack has staggered shifts as the title element of the story... Cory Doctorow's Eastern Standard Tribe... haven't read it yet, though, so I can't really comment.

    One interesting question with staggered shifts would be the "two-body problem" - how to make sure everyone in your family gets the weekends on the same days. Not to mention all the friends you want to hang out with.

    Prague used to have staggered spring school break - first one half of the city, then the other - and we used to have that problem in our family...

    By Anonymous Jiri, At 13 February, 2006  

  • I think you've just scratched the surface on huge issue: the division between Monday-Friday 9-5 on one hand, and all other times on the other. There is an ingrained prejudice that suggests the first set of times are the 'proper' times to work, whilst others are 'strange'. There is no inherent basis to this, merely our social history.

    Look, for example, at the restrictive hours operated by banks, which seem to have missed out on the past forty years of history.

    Look also at the uproar last year during the industrial relations debate, when some on the left were devastated to hear that people might be scheduled to work on a, wait for it, Sunday!!! Some of us already do, and happy doing so, although we are treated like second-class citizens in the process.

    It comes down to a core hypocracy: most of us love the idea of shopping and dining in evenings and on weekends, yet many for some reason think of working at these times as strange. Who's pouring your drink?

    I wouldn't agree with you that we should change from a 5-2 split to a 4-3 split, but I do agree that we need much more flexibility in the times and days constitute the '5'.

    As for the fallacy that us night time people are lazy or sinister, whilst the bright and early people are inherently virtuous, it's a rant for another time.

    By Blogger -A., At 19 February, 2006  

  • To Jiri

    Wow - a city divided into two shifts - I assume this was some crazy communist era thing. Two shifts is too few - the more shifts the better for a cohesive society - lots and lots of 'overlappiness'. Flexibility is important too - if you can get days off for specific imporant (e.g. family) events then it's okay to work different times.

    To Ari

    I think resistance to working Sundays comes from the right too: They (some of them) want nothing to get in the way of attending church...

    So you prefer five days as the norm or as something for absolutely everyone? Surely a part of flexibility is allowing for different durations in the working week. Naturally a person working four days is sacrificing a day of pay but if they are prepared to do that for the sake of more spare time then so be it.

    By Blogger Daniel, At 20 February, 2006  

  • Me once more...

    I just want to thank those commenting for commenting only on the issue-related aspects of my post rather than the personal stuff. I felt a bit exposed in writing that stuff and am relieved to have been spared any kind of cross-examination (even if well-intentioned).

    For me it suffices for that stuff simply to be known rather than having to discuss it. My post pretty much answers its own questions anyway.

    By Blogger Daniel, At 20 February, 2006  

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