Plain English with Derek Thompson - Who's Afraid of a Four-Day Work Week?


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Today’s episode is about a dream, a dream called the four-day work week.


One of the topics I write about most in my other gig at the Atlantic is the future of work and our relationship to work.

And a lot of these pieces I think could be summarized by the question.

Why do Americans work so damn much?

Why do so few Americans choose to use their wealth to buy more free time and one cut into this topic is a movement that believes we should all reduce the work week by one full day.


Four-day week Global is a nonprofit organization and it recently conducted a trial with 33 companies, 900 workers, mostly in the US and Ireland and a trial, replaced the typical five-day week with a four-day work week with no change in.


Pay three days off every week.

Same salary, nice gig.

And after six month trial ended, the researchers asked workers and bosses, how it all went no shocker, ninety-seven percent of employees who, Bonded said, they did not want to go back to five days per week, but this part was more surprising.


Most employers rated the overall experience nine out of ten.

This is a particularly interesting moment to pause and think about all of our relationships to work and two-time covid and the pandemic scrambled our relationship to work and time it stopped time would seem to four months and showed how much work could be done.


Asynchronously at any time from anywhere today.

Many companies are still negotiating.

Exactly how much they learned from the pandemic, how they should take the best of the office and the best of remote and create this slushy of hybrid work.

I think it’s been a pretty difficult job but at the same time, we’re in a period where some of the most influential and famous companies in America in Tech and media are slashing their workforces.


Elon Musk says he wants to bring back 12-hour days.

And hardcore work is an ethos.

And so, there lies this profound and fastening tension between a movement that seeks to use technology to liberate workers and a movement that sees technology as a means to keep us connected to our jobs as long as we’re conscious.


Now, when it comes to the four-day work week, I think there’s an easy and a hard question here.

The easy question is, why aren’t more companies thinking about reducing their workdays?

Let me the answer to that.

Is that most of them are afraid that their workers will simply do less.

Their companies will simply accomplish less and to be honest, it’s not an entirely unreasonable fear at all.


The more interesting question is something like Why are we so sure that the best way to organize the world is a five-day workweek.

What’s so special about the number 5?

The pandemic showed us that so much of the way we work is an accident of History.


A quark solidified by familiarity and the passage of time, maybe the office is where we should do, all the white-collar work, or maybe that’s wrong.

Maybe a two-day weekend, is all people need to feel perfectly recharged or maybe that’s wrong.


Maybe in some cases for is greater than 5 Juliet Shore is an economist at Boston College and a lead researcher on the four-day Work Week trial.

And in this episode, we talked about how work in the economy might be reorganized in her vision of a four-day Work Week.


Why even employers, why even bosses might appreciate that extra day off and why Americans relationship to work and time and well-being needs.

Some kind of a revolution.

I’m Derek Thompson.


This is plain English.


Professor Shore, welcome to the podcast, great to be here.

Let’s start with your four-day Work Week trial, 33 companies, 900 workers, mostly in the US.

And Ireland, I’m first very curious to know what kind of companies did you enlist in this trial.


Most of the companies are in.

Well, the biggest category is Administration it and Telecom.

So we have the largest company is a software company.


But we had Professional Services.


We have nonprofits, we have design boutiques.

We have to manufacturing One Construction, education food.

We have a restaurant chain in healthcare one in retail.

So it we spend the whole you know, a lot of the industrial classification but it is it is skewed for that sort of tech white-collar world.


It’s really good to know that because I think when some people look at a study like this or a trial like this, they’ll say, oh the four-day work.

Week can only work for boutique design shops, it can only work for GitHub and software developers.

It can’t work for a restaurant or a factory or some other kind of company.


And this trial really did span a lot of different Industries.

So let’s talk about the worker reaction workers.

Really seemed to like not working Five days a week, those who went to four days per week said they were less stressed.

Less fatigued less insomnia.

Let’s burn out.


They had improvements in physical and mental health.

I read that you held their pay constant.

So did they work more hours a day or where they paid the same salary to work fewer hours?

Nobody got hurt action and pay, so they got five days of pay for or days of work. 32 hours.


So these were eight hour day, so it’s not a compressed work day.

So that’s the first thing.

So they basically got a 20% increase in pay for those 32 hours, but let me back up on something else you said, because I want to make something clear.


It’s not that workers said, they were less stressed or less burned out, or in the sense of they did, we didn’t ask them at the end of the trial.

How did the trial affect your stress?

We had to be for After methodology.

So, before the trial began, we asked about their stress in the last four weeks at the end of the trial.


We asked about those stress.

So, it’s a, we did ask a few things about sort of retrospective, at the end of the trial.

Tell us, you know, how you feel about X Y and Z.

But the large majority of our results are using a much more robust methodology than that retrospective.


And we’re really saying, we’re analyzing how things are are at Point 1 and then at the end, that’s great.

Thank you for that slight edit.

So you did this study with Boston College people from University College Dublin, Cambridge University on the worker side, we’re gonna get to the bosses in just a second but on the workers which of the conclusions actually surprised.


You like you personally someone who’s written about work and over worked for decades, what I was most.

Surprised about the fact is most surprised about the fact is two things.

One is people did not take second jobs so they have those full day off about half of them got Friday’s off.


They’re not trying to earn more money on that day off especially in the u.s. that surprised me.

Number two, we asked we had a couple of questions that tried to measure work, intensity at the beginning and the end of the trial and we were concerned about that because the the model that these this this trial followed is something called the hundred eighty hundred model, 100% of the pay for 80% of the time but you do 100% of the work.


So one way to get that is speed up and that’s not you know if that’s all we’re doing speeding workers up there.

That’s not good.

So the the idea behind the trial we could talk more about this, is that work is reorganized and low productivity activities are taken out and people figure out how to get as much not out of those four days by getting rid of all the stuff that isn’t about adding value.


So but who knew if that was really going to work I mean we know it’s worked in some individual companies but but work.

Intensity did not change at the end of the trial when we asked people to assess their work, intensity, it was the same level of intensity that they registered before the trial started.


So you found essentially the productivity went up by about twenty percent.

People worked less, but the overall product at the end of the day, was the same as it was in the before times before this experiment happened.

But it didn’t necessarily make people more frenetic, their hair wasn’t on fire, 20% more, they Working with 20% more intensity it suggests that something really important happened in the way that they organize their work anecdotally.


What can you tell me about how work was reorganized at some of these companies in such a way that it allowed product, or overall product to Hold Steady?

We had a couple of different ways that we try to get at this.

I mean, one was, we looked at revenue for any company that, that Had productivity metrics.


We would take them but, you know, they didn’t actually give them to us.

So we had self-reports of productivity in which we asked people before.

And after the trial, how is your current performance relative to your lifetime best and that went up pretty significantly.


So people felt they were a lot more productive.

We asked the companies how the trial affected productivity and they say on a scale of 0 to 10 because you can’t Like, you know, they scored it.

A seven point seven.


So they felt very happy about the productivity performance.

We looked at their revenue, we had Revenue increases over the period but it’s just a lot of people focus on productivity The Economist especially like what happened to the productivity and you know part of what I would like to say is I think for the company’s performance is probably the better metric.


So are they performing well, are they thriving?

Are they growing?

You know new new hiring went up over the trial so on all those metrics good and then you ask well, how did they do it?

How are they able to maintain that performance?


How did they do it?

So we the companies went through two months of coaching and sort of mentoring hearing from people who’ve done this in their own companies, getting peer mentors, To help them.

And some of the big things that that we start with sort of the elephant in the room, for a lot of these companies is meetings, they have lots, and lots of meetings, too many meetings that go on too long, too many people get invited to them.


And there’s research on that, interesting research, on how much time white collars and professionals, especially spend in meetings and so much of it is wasted.

So, there’s one company in in our UK trial, who put in a light system, they’re in an open open plan office and everybody has a light at their desk and the light can be green which says I’m available to talk.


If you need to talk to me, it can be yellow if which says you can come and talk to me, but it needs to be important or can be read and it’s don’t you dare approach my desk.

I’m busy working on something and distractions are a big draw.


I got in productivity so that kind of a system or you know whatever they can do some companies have every had like a quiet time, the certain hours of the day when people aren’t talking to each other and there are no meetings could be held and no distractions.


So there are a lot of ways to do it and the companies figure out what works for them.

Some other things that are really important is our people move personal appointments to the off date.

So this comes up almost Every time I talk to people, which is doctor’s appointments meetings with kids, you know, teachers or whatever, shift them to that off day.


Because many of the people in these trials are people who have the freedom to be able to go out of the office for a couple of hours, other things more efficient, communication Styles, instead of phoning, somebody sending them an email or slack or something.


So you don’t have the chip A chat.

And then honestly, I mean, they didn’t talk about this too much for.

I got some of this in conversations.

I’ve had with employees, you know, the time that people waste doing things like shopping playing games on the computer Doom, scrolling social media, whatever it is, they just do a less bit.


It’s so interesting to think that the four-day work week is a forcing function in this way to help both bosses and workers recognize what it is.

It’s a part of their day-to-day work process that isn’t quite work.


But is it like not not work, like the ways that we trick ourselves into being productive.

And we’re not productive like sitting in front of the computer and having one tab open to work.

But another tab is watching YouTube or you know, calling a meeting because there’s Lots of time in the week to have lots of meetings, when obviously, it should be an email, the classic cliché that meeting should have been an email.


Well, you can have it as a meeting when there’s a five-day workweek, and there’s not that much time pressing you, but when you’ve suddenly lobbed off Wednesday, or Friday, or whatever day it is, the, you’re finally that you’re taking off.

Well, no.

You it has to be an email.

Now in order to get everything done that week that has to be done.


I think that’s one of the most interesting implications of this is that the four-day work week was not merely a means, He’s of giving workers more leisure time.

It was a forcing function for getting companies to like get their act together to actually do work during the work day.


I just want to make sure I have this right.

Even though workers seem to be, you know, I don’t know what term to use here, you know, goofing off a little bit more and maybe bosses were calling more calling fewer.

Unnecessary meetings.

Burnout and stress.


During these work days, still didn’t increase in this study.

No, I mean burnout and stress declined, over the study for sure, we did ask retrospectively what happened to the pace of work and the workload.


So looking back and there’s a little bit of an increase there.

So more people said, their pace of work went up and more people said their workload went up then down, but it doesn’t jibe with the before and after the questions.


When We asked them about work.


So that’s a puzzle we need to I think we’re going to add some more questions on that to try and get at it.

It’s but the point is that if workload if work intensity went up it was pretty subtle because it didn’t register in the before and after it’s also possible that people just kind of adjusted to it in a way that didn’t feel rushed them.


So they know they’re working. being a little more intensely, but It’s not registering and you know, because we asked the question that they’re sort of different questions than.

So the questions that we ask that are the same before and after no change, I need to ask about Boston’s because I think it’s going to be intuitive to most listeners.


That, of course workers like this experiment that God next your day of the week, to take off to have a weekend, be with her kids, go to the doctor’s office etcetera, it is surprising to me most surprising to me that bosses like this experiment to not because Managers don’t like a day off.


I’m sure managers love days off, but rather that these people are directly responsible for the bottom line return of companies.

And I would imagine that for a lot of companies.

If you lob off a day of the week Revenue goes down product, goes down.

Specifically, what did the bosses in this study?


Say they liked most about the for four-day Work, Week trial here.

Let’s let me just raise something that’s important to understand about this trial.

Is what economists call a selection bias and that is these trials are being done by companies who were interested in trying this out.


So these were all at and it’s that it’s the top dogs, it’s the CEOs or the Senior Management who are making those decisions.

So they’re all they’re already thinking.

This could be good for my company.

Now, why are they thinking that?

Well, they may, you know, many Even some of it may just be their own personal experience, something they believe in, they may see the fact that their employees have high levels of stress and burnout.


It was starting before the pandemic but the pandemic just turbocharged stress and burnout and the four-day week, sentiment the first company came into the trial health-wise.

They did it because they had a whole raft of resignations in June. 20 21.


And then by August, they’d instituted a four-day week.

Some companies are also concerned.

They’re concerned about retention.

So that’s the resignations but also attracting people it’s getting harder and harder for companies to attract.


And I think they just saw that in many of these workplaces, this opportunity for work reorganization really could work and they wanted to do something for the employees to.


They thought it would help with Loyalty productivity, Etc ends and they were, you know, pretty much, not one company that we’ve heard from.

And we’ve heard from 27 of the 33 about whether they’re continuing not one has decided not to continue.


So one is undecided, one is leaning toward I think seven are planning to but they haven’t made the final decision yet and 18 are are already definite.

I mean, some of them have to go to their boards and so forth.


So you know, the proofs in the pudding there which is that it worked for all of them.

I’m thinking about the particular kind of companies for whom the four-day work, week would not be a great solution.

So, and tell me, if you think that this list is wrong for jobs, like teacher or security guard, cashier, retail sales person, it’s harder to do five days of work in four days because These are jobs.


I selected where you’re paid for your presence and presence.

Can’t be accelerated or made efficient the same way that say, you know, entering numbers into Excel can or working with a design team in order to, you know, meet some spec can do you think that the four-day Work Week?


Broadly adopted might open up inequalities between presents based jobs, where people just have to be We doing this thing for five days, a week versus product based jobs, where work toward finishing, some project can be accelerated if workflow gets a little bit more efficient.


So I don’t think that’s the right way to think about it.

It’s easy to see how, let’s just call them low-intensity workplaces could benefit from this, because they’re the ones that have a lot of, you know, like a lot of low value stuff that can get squeezed out, the white collar jobs as you said that’s easy but let’s talk about high intensity work places like a teacher’s job or I thought you were going to say Healthcare many people.


That’s the first thing they think about what about nurses and doctors.

They’re operating at a very fast pace.

They’re not going to that.

Meetings, they’re already stressed and burned out.

There’s no way you want to put them increase their pace of work in those four days because they don’t they’re like their work is doesn’t have a lot of wasted time.


They’re on the go they need four days for a different reason because they’ve got too high, a pace of work.

So the first group you could say, low-intensity, these are like high intensity.

And we’re seeing Stress and burnout.


Lots of people leaving those professions where, you know, I’m thinking Healthcare teachers, Etc, it’s too intense for days a week would help them because it would only be four days of intense.

They would be on what I call the hundred eighty, eighty model hundred percent pay 80% time 80% output so we’re not asking them to make up all the output we have.


Got to hire people for day 5 for them.

So that’s going to be a Lost.

How is that going to work for those workplaces?

Well they’re already losing a lot of money because they’re losing it in attrition.

They’re losing it in the cost of hiring new people and training them.


They’re losing it in the health care costs of a population.

You know a Workforce that they’re causing a lot of health problems with.

So we have one study least one from Sweden which shows that they did this with nurses.

They put them on a six hour.


Our day, they had to hire new people.

But by the time they factored in all of those cost savings, the additional cost wasn’t much.

And then when you think of it from a social point of view where where some of these are very highly, trained professionals Society spend enormous resources trading, these doctors and nurses and now that’s all just going down the drain.


So it’s socially very inefficient.

So those are the two.

Those are the two.

That’s that Paradox eventually.

So, what’s take your security guard?

And let me see, can I sharpen let’s take the school.


I’m particularly curious about school, and I want to rephrase, because if you misunderstood me, it’s likely that a lot of other people misunderstood me.

I absolutely did not mean to suggest and do not think the teaching is mere presence, right?

Teaching Is Not Mere babysitting and frankly, even babysitting Is Not Mere presence.


I’m saying if you make Fourth grade, a four day a week, proposition.

You say, fourth grade used to be five days a week.

Now, Friday’s off.


Kids are in school on Friday, who are in fourth grade, you are now Outsourcing to parents Child Care on Fridays.


That is a cost borne by parents, or it’s formed by some other organization that has to just make more money and spend more money in order to pay new teachers in order to take care of As fourth graders and Fridays, is that wrong, okay?


Now you come to a totally different argument.

That’s not anything about what you said, you said, you know, you said presents based and suddenly were talking about, you know, child care and teachers were to.


So first of all, teachers could be on four-day schedules and kids could still be on five days schedules.

Teachers could be unfor day schedules and we could find a way and we decide that students also would do better with the four-day week.


I have no idea if that’s the case, but that’s something we should investigate.

And if that’s the case, we could find alternative activities for the fifth day or, you know, we could get a flexible system when which parents who wanted to be with their kids on the fifth day couldn’t parents who didn’t want to be.


I mean, they’re just many ways to go with that so and what that’s like venturing off into a whole other world that this fine and and maybe we don’t need to go all the way.

Down this particular rabbit hole but I do think that I do think that in maybe I don’t have the most sophisticated way of thinking, through this particular schema.


There just is a difference.

It seems to me that there’s a difference between a job like a boutique Design shop where the the product is I’m calling.

It is entirely internal versus a job like teachers where a part of the job is is presence with people and then if you change from a five-day workweek to a four-day work week, We need some further Act of reorganization in order to make up for the fact that we need some someone else to take over for that presence.


It might make myself a little bit more clear there.

I might not this is I’m thinking about all this live so I’m probably not saying this most articulate way, totally fine.

So it’s actually a much bigger issue than that, which is like any company that needs to be available to its customers company or organization that needs to be available to his customers on that fifth day.


What do you do?

So the Pretty sure I’ve done different things.

A lot of them have rotating days, so they stay open for five days and people just take off at different days.

Not everybody is closing up shop on Friday and they figure that out for themselves.


But what’s interesting is I’ll say two things.

One is in the in some of the government offices where we’ve seen moves in this direction and the Nordic countries have done a lot On work time reduction, not four day weeks yet, although they’re starting.


But the icelanders did a big big series of experiments which ended up being permanent over four years for shorter hours, in a lot of their offices motor vehicles and all the public offices across every type of public office.


So all the city employees and Reykjavik government employee national government employees to and all Those different offices were able to make it work.

So there are different ways to do that one.

You might change your customer service hours.


We have a town in Massachusetts where I live, that’s gone to a four days of town Services being available but they extended the hours on some of those days just to make it more convenient for people to come outside of the 9 to 5 monday-friday.


Here’s an anecdote that I think helps with sort of seeing how How expectations are changing again from health-wise that first company that joined our trial?

I talked to someone in customer service and she told me that too little concerned when she was going to tell her biggest client that she would no longer be available on Fridays ago.


She said except for emergencies or something and you know I think pre-pandemic the response to that.

What about love?

How dare you say that?

That’s that’s great.


Good for you, girl.

I want to move on to talk about the relationship between Americans and work.

This is a huge part of your research, huge part of your work and something that I’ve learned a lot from.

I wonder whether you think American work culture is moving at the moment toward or away from the plausibility of a four-day work week.


Because there’s some crosscurrents here that I find very interesting on the one hand remote work makes work more flexible in time, which seems at least in theory to make the four-day work week more plausible.

Well for companies that solve some of these work reorganization problems, you talked about in fact Airbnb.


I’ve spoken to the CEO and other people at Airbnb has found that some of their more popular.

Bookings are now on Fridays Mondays and Tuesdays, because it’s clear that more people are taking either work.

Caissons were longer weekends with it between, which time they pack in a four-day work week.


But there’s also, this economic slowdown that’s happening.

And it’s a tough time, I think during an economic slowdown to experiment with reducing work hours and industries that are facing.


I think that companies become conservative when they think that their bottom line is being tested by macro conditions.

So, I guess, taking all of this and everything that, you know, into into account, do you think this is a particularly fertile time for Americans to experiment with the four-day work week?


Or do you think this is a particularly risky time for these kind of experiments?

I think we’re definitely evolving toward a four-day week and as you say the pandemic was key to this.

What But one CEO said to me was with remote work, we learned.


We could trust where our workers work.

And, and now we’re trusting how much time they work.

We were already seeing evolution in things like what was going on.

What’s been going on in summers?


Where many employers are giving Friday early really early and it closing on Friday or Friday’s off more.

More employers are giving every other Friday off.

That’s become a more popular thing.


There was a wonderful piece in the New York Times.

I don’t know if it was in style or but it was about Friday in lower Manhattan and how so many first of all, there’s a lot of no meetings no meetings on Fridays and part of what happens then is you know that people actually don’t spend the whole day working.


King because people, you know, they’re not having to be accountable and this idea that fried add more and more parties were being scheduled on Fridays and social events because people were just taking it, you know, people are just walking with their feet.

I I spoke to a bar instructor, it’s a kind of exercise routine.


Who told me that she has many more clients who come in on there on the Friday morning than the Tuesday morning class.

And they come in and they say, oh I’m working from home today but actually, you know, they’re going to bark last so it’s, you know, it’s kind of happening.


Of course, that’s the people who do that are people who have the kind of privilege in their jobs that they actually can control their time and so forth.

So I think we’re moving in this direction.

The and there are sort of big structural changes in Social Actions that are pushing us here, which is that we have, you know, many more dual earner households and we have many more single parent households and to Day weekend is just not enough for them and it’s we’re sort of bursting at the seams in that.


But the question of of a recession or a downturn, first of all, we’re not there at the moment, we’re not in an economic slowdown.

We maybe we may get into one that that’s still a Kitchen.

That will always make things like this more difficult in part because one of the things that’s fueling interest in this is the difficulties that companies are having filling positions.


And so this is becoming a, you know, this is a perk that attracts people and we’re here.

This one of the things anecdotally, we heard from companies who participated is that they went from pretrial.

Having you know people were not applying to Durham.


Once the trial started, they had the four-day week.

They were able to hire so labor market, conditions, certainly matter.

And but we thought these, you know, we’ve got a lot of people moving out of the labor force in the United States.


For you have the demographic Trends, you have long covid, you’ve got the values changes that the pandemic brought.

So I think it’s not going to be so easy for employers to just you know try and Crank It Up.

If we do have a recession, there’s a bigger more existential question, lurking behind this conversation, which is how much time we should be dedicating to work.


When you take the historical view, we had a five-day workweek 50, 60, 70 years ago, we are much, much, much more productive than we were 50, 60, 70 years ago.

And yet most people with full-time job, still work.

Five days a week.

I’m hours worked per year of gone down for most developed countries, but the five days, Workweek is still there.


And this gets us to a deeper point about the role that work play is in America.

Specifically, Americans work a lot.

We work more than basically any of our Western peers.

We work more than almost any, similarly, rich country in the world.

I’ve read and one place that reducing American working hours to the levels in Norway or Denmark would basically amount to giving American workers two months of extra vacation every year.


Why do you think Americans have this unique relationship to work?

Let’s start at the early 20th century because there’s a, there’s a current of thought that said, oh, we’re just a workaholic Nation, you know?



There were workaholic nation and I think that really misses what has happened.

Number one, we were the very first country to have substantial work.

Time reduction, the first, for the Six-Day week, the first of the five day week.

We were the leaders and work time reduction for four decades that started to change after the second world war and it changed for a couple of reasons.


One had to do with the fact that it’s an accident.

The fact that health benefits are paid by the employer which gives Employers in its Center for long hours of work.

So they have fewer they want to hire fewer people so they pay fewer health benefits if we had You know, if health benefits were paid were at not and that the accident is that they started doing that when there were wage and price controls during the second world war.


So it’s just totally a bad, a bad accident of History.

So that’s the first thing.

The second is that we ended up with weaker and more conservative unions and unions have been for decades at the Forefront of work time reduction.


So I don’t think it’s Even I don’t think it’s cultural.

I think it has to do with economic incentives and we also had a lot more people and salary jobs for earlier than many of these other countries that were comparing ourselves to and where we have much higher hours of work.


You ask how much should we were?

You know, Kate I pause you there.

There’s so II by the story about employer-sponsored health care benefits.

I buy the story about weak labor laws, I buy the story that a lot of this has to do with as you put it quirks of history that happened around and just after the second World War I also think there might be something cultural and sometimes culture is just like this word that’s waved about that’s just like oh well if we can’t explain it with any other story, we just say it’s culture but one of the more unusual phenomena of work in the 21st century to me is that higher educated workers college-educated workers have They’re working hours even more than the middle class and lower class, it’s as if and I’ve written this in a piece for the Atlantic.


It’s as if for a lot of the college educated, maybe set your Elite work has come to play a religious like role in their lives and these people who do not necessarily have to get into a further Rat Race for work or status or money, nonetheless, seem to be working more decade over decades.



Now this particular story, I want to be clear.

He’s a story about the elite.

I’m not trying to tell a story about all of America.

This is a story about the college educated Elite but the fact that you do have this phenomenon that I’ve called were Chasm at the tippy-top of of the us and that it is a modern weirdness, it’s only started happening the last few decades does seem to suggest that there’s something else going on that isn’t just about employer-sponsored benefits or or labor laws as much.


That might be a story that explains a lot of other things that are happening here.

Yes, there’s more going on.

So your story, I would also push back on the idea that that’s primarily culture.

What I think has happened is that a culture of work is emitted to use your term has developed as a result of something out.


So what is that something else that was happening in those High educated?

Professional Arenas?

What happened with those is that you go got much more competition for those jobs.

Those jobs used to be reserved for white men, primarily from the WASP Ali.


But, you know, white men.

And, and by the way, in those little in the good old days when they were sliding into those, they were not working hard.

They were there three Martini lunches.

And you know, whether it’s publishing or banking or whatever.

We’re talking about, they had cushy lives and they just slid right into those jobs.


Almost, you know, as a Birthright.

Suddenly that starts to change beginning with the feminist movement and, and, you know, so beginning sort of the 1980s and on you get more and more competition and those jobs have gotten ultra-competitive and working hours became and this happened at the firm level.


They became part of how how people showed their value to the firm-wide be for what we were reasons.

We were talking about earlier.

You can’t figure.

Her out what the productivity is for a lot of these jobs and so it’s a FaceTime system and you know if you’re working all the time you develop a culture around it.


There’s one other thing that can that’s important here that I neglected to mention something about the earlier period, but it’s something that really starts to play in and exactly this period.

These later decades that you’re talking about and that’s inequality and we have numerous studies showing that Growing inequality or higher, inequality leads to longer work hours and that’s across the Spectrum.


And and you can see it.

So you can see it in my and what we’ve just been talking about the people at the top trying to maintain that position because it’s gotten so much worse to not win.

And the people at the bottom who’s hourly workers whose wages are declining, who have to work more hours in order to keep up.


So I, you know, this is maybe my bias, Yes, I’m an economist by training.

I see, really strong economic forces at work here.

I don’t think they’re, there are cultural forces that come to a line with it, but I just don’t see it.


As primarily cultural, That’s a really interesting explanation.

I’m a huge fan of a book that you wrote In the 1990s called the overworked American.

And there’s a point in there that I actually want to talk to you about.

Because after I read that book, it’s a point.

That is kind of haunted me, ever since I’ve read it, and I’ve, I’ve resurfaced the point, a bunch of different articles, about Americans relationship with work and time and Technology.


I do think this is mind-blowing.

So you write that in in 1900, you point out, the average American house had no electricity, no modern plumbing.

Aang, no air conditioning refrigerators, freezers irons, vacuum cleaners.

It was, you know, technologically, bereft, modernly, speaking and over the next 60 years.


All of this stuff came online that made every part of housework easier.

It made food prep faster, it make cleanup faster.

I’m Richard refrigerators alone, meant that Housewives and the help didn’t have to worry about buying fresh food every other day and these inventions and Innovations, could have.


You could argue they should have Have saved hours of labor, but accorded, the best data available, the average, housewife and 1900, worked 50 hours a week.

The average housewife, and 1940 worked 51 hours a week.


The average, housewife in 1960 worked 53 hours a week, all of this technology came online.

All this theoretically labor-saving technology came online and it did not save labor and the this presents.

Just such an interesting question about Relationship between technology economics and culture.


And I would love for you to pick up the story there and explain why you think this paradoxical thing happened?

Yeah, it is fascinating.

And this does relate to your question about.

How much should we work?

Mhm, you know, almost 100 years ago, Keynes wrote his famous essay economic possibilities for our grandchildren in which he saw the tremendous technological change that was going on in in factories basically incredible.


Leaps and Bounds in how how much human labor it took to make manufactured goods and he said, you know, a hundred years from.

Now we if things continue like this, we could be, we could have a 15 hour work week, 15 hours.


Now, what that means is that over that time, we would have traded, you know, much more of our productivity for free time than we did, instead of just making more and more and more and more and more.

Now, in the house with the house, Hers.

Domestic labor.


It was it, we were making.

Those women were making more and more and more in a certain sense in there.

But the standards of cleanliness went up, the things they were doing, went up the standards of cooking and, you know, all this kind of stuff.

So the works expanded to fill the available time, that’s like maybe the popular aphorism for this.


There was no incentive to save their labor for women.

And by the way, one other piece of this, which is, I think really important, Important that is never gotten the attention.

It deserves is theirs because that women’s labor was free because they weren’t going.


These were full-time Housewives.

They, they were culturally prevented from going into the labor force.

Once they were married, there was a big gender bias and technological change.

So you got much more rapid technological change and in men’s work than you did in women’s work.


I mean it still drives me crazy, some of the labor intensity.

A lot of housework today, you know, whether it’s dusting.

Like why haven’t they figure something out?

So we don’t have to dust or I know you have the rumbas now, that’s like finally there’s like self-propelled vacuum.


So I don’t know how well they work.

But you know what I’m saying?

Like, we’re still cleaning toilets by hand so that that’s also a part of it, which is we got that we did, get a lot of technological change, but but not, as nearly as much as we should.


Have so women’s labor does go down when they go into the workforce and the model that is estimated.

At that time found that for every additional hour in the paid labor a woman reduced her hours at home by half an hour.

But you can see that does lead to overall pick increase in work hours.


We need to take more of our technological progress in the form of shorter hours of work.

There’s just no doubt about it.

We need that for climate reasons.

I’ve done.

A lot of work, showing the association between working hours, and carbon emissions shorter.

Working hours shorter carbon emissions.


I think it’s going to have to be a necessary part of a climate solution, but those factors that we talked about inequality Healthcare the incentives at the firm level.

Those things have all conspired in America to keep us on this sort of high H path even as all these other countries that we used to be.


You know what?

Work less than have now greatly surpassed Us in terms of time off the job.

I think someone might wonder, you know, you’ll why end here.

Like, what does the invention of the refrigerator have to do with the 2022 trial on the four-day work week?

But you put it very well.


We need to use more of our technological progress to work less and it is up to us how we use the technologies that we invent.

And I think about this a lot with the rise of totally different subject.

These these, the chat GPT, The that chat AI program from from open AI.


This is a device that can be used for evil.

Can be used for Wonder, but fundamentally is coming from people, and it’s up to people how it’s used and I feel like too often especially in the 20th century, we use technology that came online in order to reify social inequalities rather than to fix them and we can always make different choices.


These are, these are political and policy choices and we can choose differently.

So I’m very grateful.

That you’re shaking things up and thinking about ways that we can make extremely different policy and political choices at the firm level and maybe eventually at the national level, but we will see Professor Shore.


Thank you so much for speaking to me and we’ll have you back very soon.

The pleasure.

Thank you.

Thank you for listening.

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