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Forum Post: The ACCELERATED WORK WEEK explained — fixes unemployment and inequality w/o gov't spending!

Posted 1 year ago on June 12, 2012, 3:35 p.m. EST by Misaki (893)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

The accelerated work week is where businesses give employees the option of a higher intensity work pace if they choose to work less. The "extra value" created by working harder in less time is split between the business and the employee, so both benefit.

Who would want to do this? Simple: people who are currently spending much of their income on "brands" and other things with limited or no value. Maybe they are spending $200/session on a psychologist when they could get the same benefit simply by spending more time with family and friends.

Another example is food at a store. Suppliers pay for shelf space, which means that stores have an incentive to make "non-branded" food as unattractive-looking as possible so people purchase the more expensive brands which pay the store more for shelf space. This doesn't mean that the non-branded food has any decrease in quality, but people still buy the branded food simply because they have money to spare.

(Another example is the fact that Apple and Samsung are now raking in 99% of the profit among top mobile phone vendors, because people are willing to pay a premium for a "cool" product. Seriously, unless you talk a lot on the phone, considering switching to a pre-paid plan or any of the many companies that "lease" airtime from the major network providers. The minimum required purchase rate is generally around $10/month.)

So you work less, earning more money than you otherwise would have in that amount of time, and both you and your employer benefit. Doesn't the fact that you're spending less money mean it hurts the economy? Nope, because a $5000 brand-name purse costs just about the same amount of work to make as a $50 or $100 purse, and employs mostly the same number of workers. Maybe the brand-name company also has advertisers and lawyers to sue Chinese companies that are making fakes, but if you work less it means those lawyers etc. can switch occupations to whatever you do and thereby contribute more to society.

The net effect of ONE person using the accelerated work week: they get paid slightly less but at a higher wage rate, their employer has lower costs for a given amount of work completed, and other corporations end up with lower profits. Someone else can be hired to do the remaining amount of work which is left over from working fewer hours.

The net effect of MANY people using the accelerated work week: more money in the pockets of workers (instead of going to corporate profits and the rich), which means more money being spent instead of sitting around in banks or on corporate balance sheets; lower inequality and unemployment. Less political corruption due to corporations having less money to play with. No need for persistent inflation due to full employment, so saving for retirement becomes much easier without needing to depend on financial markets for a positive real interest rate. More pressure to increase government efficiency since jobs would be available in the private sector. More attention paid to global warming.

Less crime. Lower college tuition costs due to a lower premium for education (which some people might not want). Fewer lawyers being employed due to lower corporate profits to afford them (or for lawyers from other corporations to aim for). A reduction in activity... "the death of" might be an exaggeration... on Wall Street.

Is this not what you want? Are you, Occupy Wall Street, not satisfied by these results?

28 Comments

28 Comments


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[-] 4 points by writerconsidered123 (344) 1 year ago

what really bothers me is this person has never worked a hard job before. Had he or she, they would know that time mangement is an intergral part of business today, they already have workers working balls to the walls as is. there are quotas to reach and believe me they get every once of work out of you. you could not compress your work week.

[-] 1 points by Misaki (893) 1 year ago

there are quotas to reach

You mean like with this kind of job?

Have you never heard of corporate bureaucracy? Seriously?

[-] 1 points by geo (2638) from Concord, NC 1 year ago

Lets crack that whip even harder... the economy is in the slacker and there is a wide gap in wealth because we are all slackers.

I agree, with the layoffs as they have been, most people are covering 2 or 3 positions to keep up.

[-] -1 points by Misaki (893) 1 year ago

Lets crack that whip even harder... the economy is in the slacker and there is a wide gap in wealth because we are all slackers.

I agree, with the layoffs as they have been, most people are covering 2 or 3 positions to keep up.

This is exactly why we haven't seen more jobs created. People are working too much, which means companies don't need to hire more people.

You seem to completely fail to understand the basic concept, could you explain why?

[-] 1 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 1 year ago

The few people who are even trying to understand the basic concept are having a little bit of trouble because your explanations have been a little confusing. You're talking about global warming and college tuition and the markup on luxury goods, but the details about your social engineering proposal are very vague.

You seem to have come up with yet another variant of one of the cliche social engineering proposals that re-appear on this site every couple of weeks: that people who are employed should forfeit part of their job to somebody who is unemployed. If one guy is working 40 hours per week and another guy is unemployed, then the unemployed person should get to work 10 hours while the employed guy works 30. Is that the gist of your proposal?

[-] -1 points by Misaki (893) 1 year ago

Not "should", but "can choose to" while both the employee and the business benefit.

You can deny that businesses have no inefficiencies that an employee could reduce if they had an incentive to, but this would be ignoring reality.

The previous arguments I have used were less "vague", but also used different details (didn't mention global warming, etc.) If this is more clear, this is how it could work:

A third major way to determine employee compensation, in addition to a monthly salary or hourly wages:

The first 20 hours are paid at 1.2 times the normal hourly rate for full-time work.

Work beyond 20 hours in a single week is paid at 0.8 times the normal hourly rate.


Everything follows from the incentive, and willingness, to work less time and earn slightly less money.

Since one common "complaint" is that no workers could afford to earn less, I'll just quickly link to these...

http://www.nextnewdeal.net/rortybomb/who-are-1-and-what-do-they-do-living

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_are_the_highest_paying_jobs

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/04/25/151366015/doctor-pay-where-the-specialists-are-all-above-average?ps=sh_stcathdl

Most workers willing to take a pay cut: poll - Business - Careers - msnbc.com

[-] 1 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 1 year ago

Yes, the proposal seems to come from the assumption that most people are slacking off most of the time.

[-] 2 points by francismjenkins (3713) 1 year ago

You could pass a law like that, and maybe temporarily fix unemployment, but it does nothing to fix the underlying problem, our top down system.

[-] 1 points by Misaki (893) 1 year ago

It would be permanent, not temporary. Even if unemployment was at normal levels, there would still be high inequality from brands and from things like the financial sector. Unemployment is just a good excuse to adopt this, as proven by the fact that society allowed inequality to increase for 30 years (since 1979) without really doing anything about it. Taxes on the rich had been getting lower (Bush tax cuts) and people accepted this.

So looking back at 2007, before the recession. Employment was reasonably high, but the financial sector was still making huge profits and inequality was very high.

Since the rich were spending money back then as well, which potentially could have "trickled down" to the poor, what caused inequality to be high?

There are two reasons: economic rent due to ownership of things like land, and people voluntarily purchasing brand products that lead to high corporate profits.

"Rent" is a society-wide problem, and would be fixed by legislative and tax changes and so on. People allowed high inequality to exist because it didn't seem to be causing problems. Now, people seem to be allowing inequality to exist because they're too stupid to realize that the poor economy is not due to a lack of rich people or wealth in the US overall, but that's a different problem... in 2007, it was partly because people were stupid but also because many people (this is a democracy) did not care about changing things.

So if it was more clear what you meant by "our top down system" I guess it would be easier for me to show that it isn't really a problem...

[-] 2 points by francismjenkins (3713) 1 year ago

I see what you're saying, sort of a mathematical equation, if unemployment moves above a certain level (whatever we think comprises "full employment"), then hours move down a proportional amount (so we retain full employment at all times). I mean, I don't know, I don't see this as a complete fix (but maybe I'm not understanding it completely).

[-] 1 points by Misaki (893) 1 year ago

if unemployment moves above a certain level (whatever we think comprises "full employment"), then hours move down a proportional amount (so we retain full employment at all times).

That's the idea.

It helps to remember what causes "low demand" in the first place. Right now, it's pretty well-established that people were spending money they didn't have but expected to have in the future via their job or from rising housing prices. So, and this is what some economists talk about, many people in the 99% are paying off their debts especially if their house's value decreased.

People who were fiscally responsible aren't in debt right now, but there is "low demand" which puts downward pressure on wages and more price competition and so on so it's harder to earn money (unless you're Apple).

The reason this situation is bad is that someone who is in debt might not be able to get a job to pay off that debt (which resulted from spending money earlier on).

[-] 1 points by writerconsidered123 (344) 1 year ago

oh misaki I should have known it was you that explains everything

[-] 1 points by writerconsidered123 (344) 1 year ago

this actaully smells like a friedman doctrine

[-] 1 points by Misaki (893) 1 year ago

The accelerated work week would slightly increase the profits of a business that used it. But, when working fewer hours is someone's choice (and their average wage goes up when they do so), they are more likely to forgo brand purchases than basic, price-competitive living essentials and so the profits of other corporations would decrease more.

This means that it would be good for the worker (who chose to work less); it would be good for their employer; and it would also be good for society as well due to lower inequality and unemployment.

If you have a logical argument for why it wouldn't help society, please say it.

[-] 1 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 1 year ago

I pay people per-hour to develop software. You're suggesting that I should pay them more per hour, while they work less hours per week, and in the end we're all supposed to be happy? How is that supposed to work for me, exactly?

[-] 1 points by Misaki (893) 1 year ago

If there is no way for them to complete the project more quickly, you wouldn't expect them to take the option to work less (probably). But if they're wasting any time or doing unnecessary tasks—maybe even tasks you, or their direct superior asked them to do—they could save themselves time, and YOU money, by spending the effort to show why those tasks aren't necessary instead of just "going along with the flow".

Right now, if there's Pointless Bureaucratic Task which takes up 5% of their time each week but there's a 20% chance that task is actually useful (so it provides 20% the value of normal work), if they were to refuse to do it they would be able to work 5% less, maybe leaving earlier, but would be paid the same amount of money. There's no real way for you, someone who is not a software expert, to know whether that task is really unnecessary or not. A slight penalty for working less makes it easier to trust someone to accurately identify procedural waste.

[-] 1 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 1 year ago

I'm struggling to make sense of what you're proposing. You want me to pay people the same amount, even if they decide to skip today's hour-long staff meeting and just go home an hour early instead?

There are lots of obvious flaws in your proposal, but here are two specific problems:

1) You seem to think that everybody is slacking off all the time, and that they have the option of willing themselves to instantly be more productive if they only had the motivation to do it. That's an interesting world view. But most people are already working as hard as they can. They're already motivated to work as hard as they can, either through their compensation from their current job or through the pursuit of better compensation at a better job.

2) When you increase productivity, you decrease employment. If everybody in a group of 100 workers becomes 10% more productive, then the company needs about ten fewer employees.

[-] 2 points by writerconsidered123 (344) 1 year ago

I have a feeling misaki is a child with no real world experience. his proposal is totally archaic

[-] 1 points by Misaki (893) 1 year ago

totally archaic

I do not think that word means what you think it means.

[-] 1 points by writerconsidered123 (344) 1 year ago

well when your right your right I equated archaic with chaos, I stand corrected wiki defined it as: Archaic may refer to a period of time preceding a "classical period

[-] 1 points by Misaki (893) 1 year ago

chaotic?

If you think it's crazy to reward people for working less, just see the FedEx example I quoted in the comment just below this one.

[-] 1 points by Misaki (893) 1 year ago

You want me to pay people the same amount, even if they decide to skip today's hour-long staff meeting and just go home an hour early instead?

If the hour-long staff meeting is completely unproductive; then no, they would be paid slightly less, not the same amount.

But most people are already working as hard as they can. They're already motivated to work as hard as they can, either through their compensation from their current job or through the pursuit of better compensation at a better job.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2059451/Facebook-work-important-large-salary-college-graduates.html

"More than half of students said that if they were offered a job at a company that banned social media use, they would either turn it down, or find a way to flout the policy."

http://ycombinator.com/munger.html

From all business, my favorite case on incentives is Federal Express. The heart and soul of their system—which creates the integrity of the product—is having all their airplanes come to one place in the middle of the night and shift all the packages from plane to plane. If there are delays, the whole operation can't deliver a product full of integrity to Federal Express customers.

And it was always screwed up. They could never get it done on time. They tried everything—moral suasion, threats, you name it. And nothing worked.

Finally, somebody got the idea to pay all these people not so much an hour, but so much a shift—and when it's all done, they can all go home. Well, their problems cleared up overnight.

So getting the incentives right is a very, very important lesson. It was not obvious to Federal Express what the solution was. But maybe now, it will hereafter more often be obvious to you.

2) When you increase productivity, you decrease employment. If everybody in a group of 100 workers becomes 10% more productive, then the company needs about ten fewer employees.

Once you accept the idea that people are willing to work 1 hour less and be paid less, it can rapidly escalate into working 10 hours less and being paid less. See the description of the accelerated work week where...

"Instead of showing our dedication by working long hours, we use our time more efficiently by focusing on core tasks and completing the workload as quickly as possible. This front-loads our productivity and allows less important work to be done by another employee or, if necessary, by working longer hours at a reduced wage rate to recognize the lower contribution to the business's success or our lower productivity as a natural response to a longer work week."

[-] 1 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 1 year ago

I'm still trying to understand your proposal, because your explanations have been a little scattered. Objecting to luxury goods, talking about pre-paid phone cards, or how much millennials value social networking, etc.

You're proposing that if people working for me feel that staff meetings are unproductive, then they should be able to just skip them, go home early, and then another employee should be able to attend the staff meeting for them? It's each employee's decision as to whether any given task or obligation is "productive" or not?

And I don't understand "they would get paid slightly less". If an hourly worker wants to work an hour less and get paid an hour less, then they can already do that without any kind of social engineering experimentation. If a $50/hr worker chooses to skip a staff meeting and work 39 hours in a week instead of 40, then how much do they get paid for that week? $2000? $1950?

[-] 0 points by Misaki (893) 1 year ago

because your explanations have been a little scattered.

Sorry, it is something I have been posting about for a while and it was partly aimed at people who have already heard of the suggestion.

You're proposing that if people working for me feel that staff meetings are unproductive, then they should be able to just skip them, go home early, and then another employee should be able to attend the staff meeting for them? It's each employee's decision as to whether any given task or obligation is "productive" or not?

I doubt that is the way your staff meetings work. But if you want an example in a different field, see here: http://mikethemadbiologist.com/2009/07/27/on_work_and_time_in_science/

"There is a perverse incentive to not be efficient. As Dr. Mom notes, given the scientific cultural imperative of appearing to work hard (even if one is playing Tetris), having to stay late because you screwed something up isn’t punished. In fact, it’s rewarded–you’re putting in long, albeit stupid, hours. This doesn’t help change the culture."

That post says that "Business often does it differently", but the bureaucracy that can infest large organizations is well known. From the munger speech linked above (Munger being the business partner of Warren Buffett, at one point richest person in the world),

The great defect of scale, of course, which makes the game interesting—so that the big people don't always win—is that as you get big, you get the bureaucracy. And with the bureaucracy comes the territoriality—which is again grounded in human nature.

And the incentives are perverse. For example, if you worked for AT&T in my day, it was a great bureaucracy. Who in the hell was really thinking about the shareholder or anything else? And in a bureaucracy, you think the work is done when it goes out of your in-basket into somebody else's in-basket. But, of course, it isn't. It's not done until AT&T delivers what it's supposed to deliver. So you get big, fat, dumb, unmotivated bureaucracies.

They also tend to become somewhat corrupt. In other words, if I've got a department and you've got a department and we kind of share power running this thing, there's sort of an unwritten rule: "If you won't bother me, I won't bother you and we're both happy." So you get layers of management and associated costs that nobody needs. Then, while people are justifying all these layers, it takes forever to get anything done. They're too slow to make decisions and nimbler people run circles around them.

The constant curse of scale is that it leads to big, dumb bureaucracy—which, of course, reaches its highest and worst form in government where the incentives are really awful. That doesn't mean we don't need governments—because we do. But it's a terrible problem to get big bureaucracies to behave.

Maybe you're convinced that your own business does not have these kind of efficiencies, and your employees don't use Facebook while working. But many businesses do have inefficiencies.

If an hourly worker wants to work an hour less and get paid an hour less, then they can already do that without any kind of social engineering experimentation.

Lots of hourly workers are also forced to work unpaid overtime. In some cases paid overtime is expected and required, but the base wage is lowered accordingly; illegal unpaid overtime is because employers do not trust their employees to have given their full effort for their normal working time and do not want to reward any possible dishonesty.

Earlier on I tried to describe the system as a way to increase the amount of trust between employers and employees. Few hourly employees choose to work less except for exceptional circumstances (family or something)... the logical explanation, without having survey data or anything to back this up, is that they see being able to work full time and being paid for all of that time is why they don't try harder to get a pay raise for the time when they are working and providing significant excess value to their employer.

If this makes it more clear:

A third major way to determine employee compensation, in addition to a monthly salary or hourly wages:

The first 20 hours are paid at 1.2 times the normal hourly rate for full-time work.

Work beyond 20 hours in a single week is paid at 0.8 times the normal hourly rate.

I hope it's easy to see how some people, not all, would want to work less as long as they received benefits proportional to how much they worked (so, for example, working less would mean lower health insurance contribution by the employer instead of zero benefits). The employer would still require they work a certain amount if no one else was available to do the job, but in other respects it is a better system for everyone involved: the business, the employee, and any qualified job applicants to do excess work.

[-] 1 points by friendlyopposition (574) 1 year ago

What about benefits like healthcare, retirement, etc. Do the employees also split those benefits? If I work 30 hours I get 3/4 of my healthcare, and the person working the other 10 hours get 1/4?

And to techjunkies point, if I do 40 hours of work in 32 hours and take friday off - why would the company hire someone for those remaining 8 hours. It seems like the company would be happy to get the same work done with lower personnel costs.

[-] 1 points by Misaki (893) 1 year ago

As I said before,

(so, for example, working less would mean lower health insurance contribution by the employer instead of zero benefits)

In practice it's not easy to switch the amount of insurance under the current system for the same reason that getting new insurance can be difficult: pre-existing conditions and so-called "moral hazard". The main problem is that tax-advantaged plans generally do not allow the employer to pay different amounts for each employee, as I understand it, so it would help for an employee to be able to elect to have a certain amount deducted from their pre-tax salary to pay for health premiums regardless of how much they work. (Instead of the employer contribution being a "bonus" which is independent of wage level or the amount of hours worked if someone qualifies for health benefits.)

So yes, you would get 3/4 of your healthcare for working 30 hours (unless it was directly proportional to wages, in which case you'd get credit for [20*1.2 + 10*.8] = 32 hours worked so 80% of your health care, not 75%) but you'd have the option of having the remaining 1/4, or 1/5th if benefits work like wages, deducted from your pre-tax salary to keep the same level of health insurance coverage.

Similarly, the person working 10 hours would get about 1/4 (maybe 12/40 = 30%) of "credit" for health insurance, and they could either use a coverage plan that costs that much (like the "mini-med" that McDonald's uses); or they could pay the difference from their pre-tax salary for full health insurance coverage—note that many part-time workers get health insurance from their spouse, so employers who don't pay benefits are sort of getting extra value for free—or they could have the option of cashing out on their health benefits after all taxes (including employer-side) are deducted from what the employer would normally pay.

And to techjunkies point, if I do 40 hours of work in 32 hours and take friday off - why would the company hire someone for those remaining 8 hours. It seems like the company would be happy to get the same work done with lower personnel costs.

Often, someone would do a lower total amount of work which is why someone else could be hired. Quick example:

Someone does 30 hours of "real" work, spends 2 hours on Facebook, 3 hours on completely unnecessary procedures that their boss told them to do, and 5 hours on necessary-but-very-easy work that anyone could do with no training.

If they eliminate Facebook usage, they work 38 hours, get paid for (20*1.2 + 18*0.8) = 38.4 hours and the business saves the wage cost of 1.6 hours because the exact same amount of work is being done. This is the best case for the business but many employees would have no motivation to do this if they can normally get paid for visiting Facebook.

If they eliminate Facebook usage, AND can convince their boss that the completely unnecessary procedures aren't needed, AND get "permission" to let someone else do the 5 hours of work anyone can do, then they end up working 30 hours and getting paid for (20*.12 + 10*0.8) = 32 hours of work. Meanwhile, the business hires a new person. Even if they get paid at exactly the same wage (instead of lower for being new and unskilled) they will end up doing 5 hours of work and be paid for 5*1.2 = 6 hours of work, meaning that the business pays for 32+6=38 hours of work instead of 40 as before and the exact same amount of work gets done.

But since the new person is new, and was previously unemployed and desperate for a job, maybe they only get paid 2/3 the rate of the experienced employee so the equivalent of 4 hours of work, so the business pays for 36 hours of work and has the same results as when it was paying the experienced employee to work for 40 hours.

A key point here is that the employee is responsible for pointing out what types of work are completely useless. If they are right, they end up working less time and getting paid slightly less. If they are wrong, eventually someone will realize this when things go wrong and the employee will take responsibility for that.

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[-] 0 points by rickMoss (435) 1 year ago

This is just a temporary Band-Aid for a patient that needs brain and hart surgery. NO disrespect intended. We need huge fundamental changes not more Band-Aids. Plain and simple Dan Thomas has it right. We need to liberate the work force. It's the best and only solutions that makes since.

How else can I say this? "We Are Free!" http://WeAreFree.osixs.org

We have to wake up and stop acting like sheep and working like slaves... "I'm Free"

[-] 0 points by Misaki (893) 1 year ago

It would fix unemployment and drastically reduce inequality... but it isn't a huge fundamental change?