(CNN) — We will never go back to the office, at least not five days a week.
That’s what holds Anne Helen Petersenauthor of “Out of Office: Unlocking the Power and Potential of Hybrid Work“.
“You can try to negotiate flexibility agreements now, or you can battle with your employees for the next 5-10 years, and then pay a consultant a lot of money to help you figure out what you should have started to figure out 5-10 years ago.” , he told me in the most recent episode of my podcast Downside Up.
Petersen believes that the Covid-19 pandemic has fundamentally reoriented our relationship with work in ways that companies are only beginning to fully understand.
“[La gente] she doesn’t want to be forced to come back to the office two days a week only to find that her co-workers are not there at the time. So they come back to this ghost office and it seems totally arbitrary to them to reply to emails from an office instead of from the comfort of their home,” she told me.
While it may seem like the five-day, 40-hour workweek has always been with us, it’s actually a relatively new invention.
Even in the 20th century, for example, it was considered normal to work on Saturdays, in addition to the usual five days of the week. (The Massachusetts Bay Colony had a 10-hour minimum work day!)
As early as 1866, Congress considered imposing a 40-hour workweek, but the legislation stalled. In 1926, Henry Ford instituted a 40-hour work week for his employees, believing it to be the optimal amount of time for someone to work in a week. In 1938, Congress ended up forcing employers to pay overtime to workers who worked more than 44 hours a week. The law was changed in 1940, reducing the work week to a maximum of 40 hours.
But the 40-hour workweek was, and is, routinely violated by salaried employees (and their bosses) who believe that working harder is working better. “Often, working those incredibly long hours is a sign of dedication, devotion … a sign that you should be promoted,” Petersen said. “As much as people talk about the sanctity of the 40-hour workweek, they’re not talking about the fact that we’ve already broken it.”
The pandemic, in which bosses have forced their employees to stay home for fear of spreading the virus, has fundamentally altered, according to Petersen and other workplace experts, the way we think about the office and the work week in general. .
“If you think about it, the contract with your employee is not just about buying time,” Charlotte Lockhart, a proponent of the four-day work week, told me. “You are buying them to do something with that time: a productive result. It does not matter if they are manufacturers, if they work in the hospitality industry, if they work in healthcare or if they work in an office, what is sought is how we define productivity within our business”.
In other words: work smarter, not harder.
The question now for bosses is whether they want to push to reinstate employees coming to the office five days a week because that’s how they did it before the pandemic or whether they want to actively explore flexible hours or even a four-day week to better fit the lives of its workers.
“Not that that means everyone has to be fully remote,” Petersen explained. “I think often this conversation gets very polarized or binary in terms of [si] everyone should always be in the office or everyone should always be at home. Most people want something in between.”
Source: CNN Espanol