Improved Productivity or Dark Ages Continued
|The Swedes have it right again! |
(Swedish Chef from the Muppets.)
We believe we are “free” modern people. Don’t we?
We believe we have all the wonderful things in life because this is, after all, “now” and not “then”.
But, in fact, in the USA, we have never left the Dark Ages.
You know, the time when everybody was a serf or a slave. Back “then” one had to do the bidding of the overlord. For instance serfs had to give their harvests to the overlord because he owned the land, the tools, the people… he owned everything.
Not so today. We have our jobs to provide the means to sustain us. No overlord takes our harvest and leaves us with subsistence-level scraps.
Hold on there, partner!
Let’s cipher on this for a second or two.
It’s a modern day fact of life here in the USA that nearly all U.S. companies have an “employment-at-will” doctrine. That means employees can be fired or laid off at any time for any reason or, no reason at all, without notice. We have no job security. And, employers are not legally required to provide severance pay, either, unless you are fortunate enough to be a member of a union. (1.)
Many “white collar” workers live in fear of losing their jobs. So they eat lunch at their desk, work late, don’t take vacation or time off.
In my mind, that’s not much different than the “good old Dark Ages”. (Well, maybe a little.)
It’s not like that in more enlightened places… like Sweden.
For instance, not only do people have guaranteed time off and vacations, they actually take the time and vacations
. Further, the government is experimenting with cutting the work week to 30hrs, down from the usual 40hrs. And get this - EMPLOYEE PAY IS NOT CUT!
How can that be!!!?
That is such a sin! It’s downright Un-American, too.
So what happened? Productivity has gone up.
Yep, up. People are happier, more efficient and patients are treated better.
| Statutory requirements for paid vacations and paid holidays in 21 rich countries. |
Note: the USA is "0". Please see reference 3. below.
From a recent New York Times
“Since we work fewer hours, we are constantly figuring out ways to do more with our time,” Ms. Brath said.
Sitting inside their airy office, Brath’s employees checked off the ways. “We don’t send unnecessary emails or tie ourselves up in meetings,” said Thommy Ottinger, a pay-per-click specialist. “If you have only six hours to work, you don’t waste your time or other people’s time.”
“It’s kind of a life changer,” he said, adding that the environment inspired fierce staff loyalty.
At Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska University Hospital, one of the biggest in Europe, officials have tried a similar approach to counter burnout and high absenteeism.
Last year, the orthopedics unit switched 89 nurses and doctors to a six-hour day. It hired 15 new staff members to make up for the lost time and extend operating room hours. At 1 million kroner (about $123,000) a month, the experiment was expensive, said Anders Hyltander, the executive director. But since then, almost no one calls in sick, and nurses and doctors have been more efficient.
“I had reached a point where I could only work at 80 percent capacity,” said Gabrielle Tikman, a surgical nurse. “Now it’s easier to rest and I have time at home to sit and really talk with my children. I’ve got my power back.”
Ms. Tikman and her son Rasmus. With the six-hour day, she says, “Now it’s easier to rest and I have time at home to sit and really talk with my children.”
The unit is performing 20 percent more operations, generating additional business from treatments like hip replacements that would have gone to other hospitals. Surgery waiting times were cut to weeks from months, allowing patients to return to work faster and reducing sick leave elsewhere in the economy, Mr. Hyltander said.
“For years, we’ve been told that an eight-hour workday is optimal,” he said. “But I think we should let ourselves challenge that view and say, ‘Yes that’s the way it is now, but if you want to increase productivity, be open to new ideas.’”
The hospital was inspired by a nearby Toyota vehicle service center, which moved to a six-hour day 13 years ago to address employee stress and customer complaints about long waiting times. The new system keeps the garages open longer and reels in new business.
“What we can see today is that employees are at the very least doing the same amount in the six-hour workday, often more than they did in the eight-hour day,” said Martin Banck, the service center’s director. “It’s heavy work — drilling, building engine blocks — but they have stamina, and we have more profit and customers because cars get fixed faster.”
And employees say that more downtime makes them happier on the job. “Simply put, we work more efficiently,” said Matthias Larsson, 33. Thanks to his shorter hours, Mr. Larsson can care for his three children, cook, clean and shop while his wife is at work.
While a six-hour day may fit smaller organizations, larger Swedish companies have not rushed to embrace it. And other towns in Sweden that previously tested shorter workdays ultimately abandoned them. In the northern city of Kiruna, officials scrapped a six-hour day for 250 municipal employees after 16 years, citing high expenses and resentment among workers who were not part of the program.
Back at Svartedalens, Mr. Perez hopes the same fate will not befall him. “We never dreamed that there’d be a six-hour day,” he said. “You feel joy coming to work here.”
Ingrid Karlson, a 90-year-old tenant, nodded from her wheelchair. “The personnel are completely different,” she said. “They’re happier and we’re happier.”
1. Americans take half of their paid vacation, but Chinese take less, Quentin Fottrell, Marketwatch.com, 11 Sept 2015.
2. In Sweden, an Experiment Turns Shorter Workdays Into Bigger Gains, Liz Alderman, New York Times, 20 May 2016.
3. America is the no-vacation nation, Rebecca Ray, Milla Sanes, and John Schmitt, Center for Economic Policy Research, May 2013.
This report reviews the most recently available data from a range of national and international sources on statutory requirements for paid vacations and paid holidays in 21 rich countries (16 European countries, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and the United States). In addition to our finding that the United States is the only country in the group that does not require employers to provide paid vacation time, we also note that several foreign countries offer additional time off for younger and older workers, shift workers, and those engaged in community service including jury duty.
Five countries even mandate that employers pay vacationing workers a small premium above their standard pay in order to help with vacation-related expenses. Most other rich countries have also established legal rights to paid holidays over and above paid vacation days. We distinguish throughout the report between paid vacation ― or paid annual leave, terms we use interchangeably ― and paid holidays, which are organized around particular fixed dates in the calendar. Our analysis does not cover paid leave for other reasons such as sick leave, parental leave, or leave to care for sick relatives.