For my last project, I interviewed 6 German consumers of different age-groups, with different jobs, educations and family situations. I was surprised to hear from a majority of them (as this is a pretty small sample it doesn’t really make sense to name numbers) that they have deliberately decided to reduce their working hours. They told me that the gained free-time is more than worth the loss of income.
Is this mere coincidence?
Anyway, I somehow understand.
I love my job! At work, I learn and laugh a lot. Normally, I am not only extrinsically but also intrinsically motivated to do my job.
But sometimes I feel that I have to bear the brunt. My life seems to ONLY consist of work – and other important aspects have to take the back seat: Meeting friends, reading, seeing the Edvard Munch exhibition, exercising or just taking a walk appear to be unaffordable luxury goods.
These are only my personal experiences, but – if you listen – you can hear it everywhere:
Exaggerated: Either one has no work or too much work. There seems to be no in-between (anymore). Work-Life-Balance, where are you?
This cannot be good for the individual. (Burn-out! Again, only a buzz-word?)
But this also cannot be healthy for our society nor is it good for employers (at least on the long run).
“Reduced working hours have been sought for their own sake for various reasons. One of these, ironically, was in the belief that it would increase labour productivity. (…) The reasoning behind this is that when people work shorter hours they are more productive during those hours because they are better rested, more alert and fitter.”
Tim Jackson (2011): Prosperity without Growth, p. 180
But how to establish long-term thinking in an economy which is pushed on by share prices, mid-year-reviews and operating figures.
VW Germany recently implemented a new policy: Their employees can now only receive emails with their blackberry during working hours.
Is this the beginning of a the counter-culture? I hope so.