Getting More Done in Fewer Hours on the Job

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"In the year 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that, by century's end, technology would have advanced sufficiently that countries like Great Britain or the United States would have achieved a 15-hour workweek." So begins David Graeber's self-described "work rant," "On the Phenomenon of Bullsh*t Jobs," which he later expanded into a book.


Keynes is describing a part-time job that pays like a full-time job. It sounds pie in the sky, but researchers at Purdue University think it's actually a valuable way to organize your business. The theory revolves around what's called reduced-load work; it relies on cutting out busywork and outdated tasks while prioritizing, automating, and streamlining what's most important to the employee and the organization.

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Implementation studies have found that workers in these systems actually accomplish more in their jobs than someone in a 40- to 60-hour work week. "This is because they enjoy the opportunity to have an interesting job," writes lead author Ellen Ernst Kossek, "yet still be able to flexible in a way that enables time for other life interests — from continuing education to caregiving to community involvement."


We already know that overloaded work commitments, 24-hour workdays, and other all-consuming toxic work cultures can depress our productivity and burn us out. Even a four-day workweek can have hidden consequences if it's still filled with unnecessary tasks, meetings, and expectations. Work may be a vaunted institution, but that doesn't mean we should let it calcify. If there are valuable ways to rethink the workweek, we could all gain a lot from doing so.