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Could a 30-hour workweek work?
It not only could, for the mechanics at Toyota Center in Gothenburg Sweden it has worked incredibly well for over 10 years, leading to happier employees, happier customers and higher growth and profits.
In this short 13-minute speech, CEO Martin Banck of Toyota Center Gothenburg explains why they made the transition from a 40-hour workweek to 30 and what the results have been.
One outcome: Their mechanics now get more work done in 30 hours a week, than other mechanics do in 40. Not only is productivity higher (which you would certainly expect), their actual total output is higher!
I fully realize that many people are going to dismiss this out of hand. They are stuck in the cult of overwork and totally committed to the idea that working more hours always means getting more work done, even though the research shows that permanent overwork leads to poor health and low performance.
It seems counter-intuitive that you could work fewer hours and get more done, but here’s another example:
One executive, Doug Strain, the vice chairman of ESI, a computer company in Portland Oregon, saw the link between reduced hours for some and more jobs for others. At a 1990 focus group for CEOs and managers, he volunteered the following story:
When demand for a product is down, normally a company fires some people and makes the rest work twice as hard. So we put it to a vote of everyone in the plant. We asked them what they wanted to do: layoffs for some workers or thirty-two-hour workweeks for everyone. They thought about it and decided they’d rather hold the team together. So we went down to a thirty-two-hour-a-week schedule for everyone furing a down time. We took everybody’s hours and salary down – executives too.
But Strain discovered two surprises.
First, productivity did not decline. I swear to God we get as much out of them at thirty-two hours as we did at forty. So it’s not a bad business decision. But second, when economic conditions improved, we offered them one hundred percent time again. No one wanted to go back!
Never in our wildest dreams would our managers have designed a four-day week. But it’s endured at the insistence of our employees.
We need to fundamentally change how we think about time in the workplace and Toyota Gothenburg is a great example to learn from.