How would you convince your employees that working less hours, not more, is more beneficial for them and the company?
Let's say that over a fifteen year period a typical company can produce in 30,000 hours what it originally produced in 40,000 hours. [ This productivity increase could be used to cut the workweek from 40 to 30 hours without a cut in pay, and the reduction in hours would enable us to maintain the same number of jobs. Of course, in this example the company is giving the full benefit of the
productivity increase to the employees; no additional profits are realized, so there will be no incentive to bring about increases in productivity. The benefits could be shared, however, by giving the workers a smaller cut in hours.1
The idea of reducing hours is not unrealistic, for in the first half of this century productivity increases were used to reduce the workweek from 60 to 40 hours while increasing total pay. Since World War II, the workweek has remained relatively constant, and productivity increases have been used almost entirely to increase total production and total pay. But environmental progress, by allowing us to live cheaper and better, could enable us to use productivity increases to once again cut the workweek without a cut in pay.
There are two issues that must be addressed before continuing: workers' gains from productivity increases, and fringe benefits. People often ask, Why should businesses share productivity gains with workers? The mere fact that this question is posed shows that we have lost sight of a very basic concept, namely, that in an industrialized economy, the general population expects to be better off over time. Indeed, if workers never enjoyed gains from productivity increases, we would still be working sixty-hour weeks. Over the past twenty years, the benefits of productivity increases have gone more to stockholders than to workers, but this must be seen as an aberration. ]
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