Deliberate Rest

A blog about getting more done by working less

Author: askpang (page 1 of 58)

My appearance on Docuprime

The Korean documentary series Docuprime recently had an episode on work, rest, burnout, which features an appearance by me and the dogs.

From my appearance on Docuprime!

This evening I found it on YouTube!

From my appearance on Docuprime!

Obviously, it’s in Korean.

From my appearance on Docuprime!

Still, it’s exciting to finally see it!

“Success in short sprints”: A gloss on the Google talk

Medium writer Roamy has written a short piece that summarizes some of the key points from my recent Google talk.

As an author, it’s always good to see people taking up your ideas. Seeing them start to take on a life of their own, and no longer require your direct attention and cultivation, is a bit like having kids grow up.

That might sound melancholy, but it’s not. I’m happy to have them out of the house. I need the room.

Korean article about rest

I was recently on a documentary in Korea about rest and creativity, and this article is a gloss of some of the contents.

Of course, since this is Silicon Valley, I had to wear some form of vest!

Harvard Business Review makes the case for my next book

In the Harvard Business Review blog, Ben Laker (one of the authors of the recent Henley Business School report on the 4-day week) and Thomas Roulet make a case for the 4-day week. It closes with this:

The recent attempts in the UK suggest the debate around the four-day workweek is only starting. While it can bring clear benefits with regards to employees’ well-being and ability to focus, implementation across organizations is made difficult by competitive and structural pressures in some sectors. In addition, there are still some negative perceptions of the practice, as well as concerns among workers regarding the way they will be seen by their peers and superiors.

Still, the idea requires proper consideration, and the potential benefits suggest a trial-and-error approach is the best way forward. Such a path would help us understand under which conditions a shorter workweek might succeed and when the benefits can outweigh the costs. The countries and organizations that can crack the code of the four-day week first could build a competitive advantage, if they can implement it in a way that maximizes the well-being benefit on the longer term while minimizing the short-term rise in labor and operational costs.

Have I got a book for you guys….

My talk at Google

Recently I was at Google, at the invitation of the Asian Googlers Network, to talk about Rest, my new work on the 4-day week, and even a bit about contemplative computing. The video of the talk is now up on YouTube:

It was a terrific crowd, and I just hope I did the subject justice!

“You play football to escape your problems; you run to solve them”

London Eye

Jeremy Hunt went running with Matt Chorley on the Red Box Politics Podcast, and talked about running and problem-solving. (And, in the interests of balance, here’s an episode featuring an interview with Boris Johnson.)

Washington Post on the 4-day week in America

Jeff Stein at the Washington Post has a piece about the 4-day week and the lack of interest in it among American progressives and unions:

In Europe, signs abound of interest in continuing to cut working hours. The four-day week has won backing from some of the biggest unions in Ireland and Britain, while plans to dramatically cut working hours have been embraced by large unions in Germany, the Netherlands and France….

But so far, the idea has failed to gain significant attention from the American left or labor movement. Jon Steinman, who worked at the Office of Congressional Ethics, said he is starting an advocacy group in the United States to push a four-day week, although the organization is still in its infancy.

The Democratic Socialists of America and the Justice Democrats, two left-wing groups that have pushed Democrats left, have not backed the idea yet. None of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have embraced the idea, despite similarly ambitious proposals for a federal jobs guarantee or a universal basic income.

Planet Money on “Japan’s Worker Shortage” and working hours

Scenes from Tokyo

NPR’s Planet Money has a piece on efforts in Japan to allow people to work less:

Some companies in Japan are going bankrupt because of the country’s critical labor shortage. Officials point to a declining birthrate — which has led to a shortage of workers — and an infamously demanding workplace culture that is discouraging some people from entering the job market at all. This past April, Japan’s legislative body introduced a novel solution to these two problems: a law requiring workers to work less.

[The Japanese government hopes that] a cap on overtime could alter Japan’s work culture, bring new people — particularly women — into the workplace, and solve the country’s labor shortage.

You can listen to the episode below (if my efforts to embed an audio player worked):

Or you can read the transcript.

As I’ve written before, number of Japanese companies have been experimenting with different kinds of 4-day weeks: some big employers like 7-Eleven and Uniqlo offer workers the option of doing four 10-hour days per week, in an effort to give workers longer stretches of unbroken free time. Japanese e-commerce company Zozo is actually the world’s biggest company running on a 30-hour week.

Shake Shack’s 4-day week experiment

Yahoo Finance has a piece about Shake Shack’s experiment with 4-day, 10-hour days, which started earlier this year and appears to be expanding.

The better burger joint began testing a four-day workweek for its restaurant employees at several of its Las Vegas locations earlier this year. Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti tells Yahoo Finance the test has since expanded to some of its restaurants on the West Coast.

While there is a cost component to a four-day workweek, Garutti says it’s the right thing to do for often overworked restaurant workers with families. And in this tight labor market, keeping employees healthy and happy is important to ensuring they don’t grab a gig elsewhere.

“I have been working in restaurants since I was 13, the restaurant business is super hard on families as our people work a lot of hours,” Garutti explains. “Why does it have to be that way is the question we have asked. We don’t know if it will work, it’s something we are testing at our West Coast shacks. We want to see if we can attract, retain and develop more people by changing how we think about how the restaurant business works.”

“I have had some new moms in the company come to me and say I have one less day of childcare. I have one less commute, this is amazing,” adds Garutti.

There are a number of world-class restaurants that have moved to 4-day weeks, and the movement has been slowly spreading from places whose reservations fill up in hours, to casual dining establishments. It’s good to see it moving to fast food, where some of the noisiest answers to “how to do we keep our workforce” have been along the lines of “screw them all, the robots are coming, bitch.”

How much do we need to work to be happy?

One of the objections I sometimes get to the 4-day workweek runs something like this: Since we know that unemployment makes people unhappy, doesn’t this mean that reducing the length of the workweek will make people somewhat less happy?

This assumes that there’s a linear relationship between work time and well-being. If 0 hours/week creates very little well-being, and 40 hours/week creates N amount of well-being, might it be the case that 30 hours creates (3/4)N well-being?

There’s a group at Cambridge that’s been looking at exactly this question, and they have a new article asking “How much paid work is needed for mental health and well-being?” Here’s the article abstract:

Daiga Kamerāde, Senhu Wang, Brendan Burchell, Sarah Ursula Balderson, Adam Coutts, “A shorter working week for everyone: How much paid work is needed for mental health and well-being?” Social Science & Medicine, In press, corrected proof, Available online 18 June 2019, Article 112353.

There are predictions that in future rapid technological development could result in a significant shortage of paid work. A possible option currently debated by academics, policy makers, trade unions, employers and mass media, is a shorter working week for everyone. In this context, two important research questions that have not been asked so far are: what is the minimum amount of paid employment needed to deliver some or all of the well-being and mental health benefits that employment has been shown to bring? And what is the optimum number of working hours at which the mental health of workers is at its highest? To answer these questions, this study used the UK Household Longitudinal Study (2009–2018) data from individuals aged between 16 and 64. The analytical sample was 156,734 person-wave observations from 84,993 unique persons of whom 71,113 had two or more measurement times. Fixed effects regressions were applied to examine how changes in work hours were linked to changes in mental well-being within each individual over time. This study found that even a small number of working hours (between one and 8 h a week) generates significant mental health and well-being benefits for previously unemployed or economically inactive individuals. The findings suggest there is no single optimum number of working hours at which well-being and mental health are at their highest – for most groups of workers there was little variation in wellbeing between the lowest (1–8 h) through to the highest (44–48 h) category of working hours. These findings provide important and timely empirical evidence for future of work planning, shorter working week policies and have implications for theorising the future models of organising work in society.

So it looks like there’s not a linear relationship between working hours and well-being. Rather, well-being rises quickly for the first 8 hours, then stabilizes. So just as a month-long vacation doesn’t provide much more happiness than a week-long vacation, a full week of work doesn’t provide more well-being than a day of work.

Or as the article’s conclusion puts it,

there is no optimum number of working hours at which well-being and mental health are significantly at their highest. This study finds no evidence that the current full-time standard of working 36–40 h a week is the optimal for mental health and well-being, when job characteristics, such as hourly pay, occupational group and contract permanency are controlled… [T]he average effective dose of employment for mental health and well-being is only about the equivalent of one day per week.

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