COVID-19 is forcing numerous companies into short-time work. According to information, there are currently more than 10 million employees. Often employees work for about 30 hours or less.

Since 1930 numerous experts have thought about whether a 40-hour week really makes sense. Even then it was established that prosperity is strongly related to the use of machines (industrial revolution). Due to advances in technology, greatly reduced working hours are sufficient to ensure a comfortable livelihood for everyone. According to the teaching of Bergmann (NewWork), the free time could be used to do good, volunteer work or take care of yourself through a garden, etc. The credo is: Happiness and joie de vivre instead of nervous irritability and fatigue.

Study on working hours

The majority in Germany is currently working too much. Here we assume a normal 40h week. I got the numbers from the Federal Statistical Office. Over 2,000 employees were surveyed. The bottom line is that around every second person works too much.

Working hours per week of employees in Germany (n = 2000)

Another survey of Xing on the future of work shows that of around 2000 employees who work 40 hours a day, more than half of the respondents would like to reduce their working hours. So there seems to be a strong urge for less work in my private life too.

Even since COVID-19, many contacts in my field have told me that you can actually do your job very well and that you currently enjoy having more free time. All of the contacts surveyed had no children and were able to plunge into free time after work. Contacts with children in particular were more inclined to extend short-time work in order to have free time after bringing up children.

Optimize unnecessary working hours

Productivity is often based on Parkinson’s law. You do 80% of the work in 20% of the time, or each work expands to the same extent as the time available to do it. I think that we spend 50% of our time in meetings and answer pretty meaningless mail chains.

With sensible software and new processes, we have optimized processes and meetings in my department so that, through more self-organization and individual decisions, the speed has increased massively and we suddenly felt 1/3 more time. So it is possible and is largely related to the optimization of time wasters and, above all, the often tough management decisions.

Incidentally, a study by Asana found that we spend 60 percent of our working time on coordination tasks. Only 27 percent remain for the work for which we were actually trained and also hired. For strategy and planning only 13 percent (source T3N ). So there is a lot of room for optimizing working hours.

Not possible everywhere

Ultimately, it depends on the type of employment. I think it’s easier to do it in office jobs and in large companies. I think that nurses and employees on nursing wards have to work for 40 hours. Because where one nurse only works 20 hours, a second one is necessary. But that’s not what this article is about.

Important : It’s not about everyone working part-time and employing more employees, but rather that we reduce less meaningful work and create more time for creative work through automation and optimization of time wasters.

Asana’s study (source T3N ) also shows that only 46 percent of employees really understand the goals and precise implementation of their work. Just as little (43%) know the company’s goals. 70% are also of the opinion that their direct superior does not understand what actually needs to be done. So it is an important management task to optimize efficiency and job completion.

The amount of work decreases

According to various sources, the work should decrease rapidly in the next few years. I noticed it back in 2015 when hordes of management consultants simulated their work in large corporations on a daily basis. Numerous sites such as “Crazy Management Consultants” or “Consulting Humor” on Instagram also have fun debates about it.

Bad news has been growing lately. Deutsche Bank wants to cut 18,000 jobs and is not alone. Siemens wants to cut 10,000, 7,000 at Volkswagen, 5,400 at Ford, 4,500 at Bayer, 4,000 at Thyssenkrupp and cable giant Leoni is also planning to cut 2,000 jobs. On the other hand, we also have good news. Volkswagen wants to create 2,000 new jobs at the same time, Siemens also wants to create around 2,500 new jobs and Thyssenkrupp also wants to create 1,000 new jobs.

You notice that there is a shift in the jobs from analog to digital jobs. Reducing working hours can be a means of maintaining full employment. It can prevent us from simply processing orders and coming up with creative solutions. I often notice that customers send me half-finished concepts under complete stress and are hardly able to accept creative solutions because they have been completely revised.

Conclusion

In addition to the fact that home office is possible, COVID-19 has also shown us that less working hours do not have to lead to less performance. An important factor is the optimization of processes and the focus on meaningful work. It remains exciting whether companies want to try this out more and more.

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Gendernote: I have used the masculine form for ease of reading. Therefore, unless an explicit distinction is made, it always refers to women, diverse as well as men, and people of all origins and nations. Read more

Spelling: I translated my German Blog to English - so you can also read my Recommendations. Please be sorry if this English is not so good.




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Dr. Dominic Lindner
Author

I blog about the influence of digitalization on our working world. For this purpose, I provide content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday professional life. I am an executive in an SME and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the Chair of IT Management.

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