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Analysis: I’m a boss, and I say we should work less

Lousy jobs led millions of people to drop out of the workforce altogether, creating the seemingly perpetual labor shortage that has become the bane of hiring managers’ existence. During the Great Resignation, a record number of Americans have quit their jobs because of burnout, low pay, childcare, eldercare… you name it.

To entice people back into the job market, employers have hiked pay. But inflation has wiped that away and then some, so that hasn’t worked. Bosses have let some of us work from home, but that’s a perk many offices have started to dial back on as people grow less Covid-fearful.

So here’s a crazy solution: Let people work less. I know, it sounds radical. But it turns out workers are really into the idea, AND they’re more productive.

For the past eight weeks, thousands of people in the United Kingdom have tested a four-day schedule — with no cut to their pay, my colleague Anna Cooban reports. It’s the world’s biggest trial of a four-day work week so far. Unsurprisingly, some workers have said they feel happier, healthier and are doing better in their jobs.
During similar trials between 2015 and 2019 in Iceland, there was no drop in productivity among four-day workers — and a dramatic increase in employee well-being. When Microsoft tried a shorter workweek in Japan in 2019, it found productivity went up by almost 40%.

So who do we need to fight to get a three-day weekend around here? It turns out the answer may be inertia.

In 1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes predicted we would be working 15-hour weeks by 2030, with hours in the office winding down over time. But the 40-hour workweek was hard-fought by unions across America, and it just kind of … stuck. A 9-5, Monday-Friday shift became the norm, and over time it became hard for businesses and workers to think differently.

You can present your boss all the data you want, but it’s unlikely you’re going to have much success convincing management that the way to increase productivity and solve the labor shortage is to give everyone Friday off, forever.

MY TAKE: As a relatively low-down-the-totem-pole people manager, I understand both sides.

Allison (as you know) is a fierce advocate for a four-day workweek, and if only I had the power, I’d make it happen for her. And with unending, constant meetings that could have been emails, combined with 3 pm zone-out time and catching up on “The Bachelor” with work buddies, I’m sure that accumulates into a full day over the course of my week where my productivity is effectively zero. I’d happily cut that out to spend more time with my family or whatever.

But — and hear me out on this — what if we just started by making work better? I’m not only saying this because my bosses read this (hi bosses!), but work should be a fulfilling enterprise where we feel like we’re accomplishing something important and meaningful in our lives. Whether it’s saving the planet or cleaning toilets, work is necessary. And good companies should provide a positive environment for employees to grow and feel like they’re doing something worthwhile.

Instead, too often, companies put morons like me in charge, because they don’t know what else to do with people, so they make them managers. Anyway, this has been fun, but let’s get back to work, Allison! Those stories aren’t going to write themselves.

NUMBER OF THE DAY: 53.6 million

That’s the number of metric tons of electronic junk the world threw away in 2019, according to the most recent data from the United Nations. Only 17.4% of that was recycled, my colleague Catherine Thorbecke reports.

SOME KIND OF MEOW MIX-UP

Cat food is gross. It smells weird, it’s overly oily, and, let’s be honest, it looks like something that should come out — not go in.

Yet, for some ungodly reason, Purina is opening up a cat-food-inspired restaurant for humans in New York this month.

The dishes at Gatto Bianco, Purina’s pop-up Italian-style trattoria, were supposedly inspired by Fancy Feast’s new “Medleys” cat food line. Medleys include options like “beef ragú with tomatoes & pasta in a savory sauce,” which, as my colleague Zoe Sottile noted, is designed for the cat with discerning taste.

Just a note about fancy cat food for a minute: My cats would routinely drink from the toilet, lick their anuses in public and leave dead rodents on the bed, so, like, these aren’t exactly finishing school graduates. I’m all for keeping your cat healthy, but “beef & pork Milanese with potatoes & carrots in savory juices” seems like it’s going to get lost on the audience.

I get what Purina’s trying to do here: It’s a meal so delicious, even you would eat it! But there’s a reason I feed my pets (relatively) inexpensive food out of a can: Because they’re animals, and I’ve seen them eat a literal dead squirrel carcass and act happier than with anything I’ve ever fed them.

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