The world of Frank Thelen no longer works

The world of work is changing. Point. And that means it is changing and is no longer the same as it was 30, 50 or 150 years ago. Many people who publicly present themselves as innovative like to throw this sentence around, and then show a completely different face elsewhere – including ex-DHDL juror and tech investor Frank Thelen, who writes on Linkedin: “Our world doesn’t work with a four-day week.” What he means by that: reduced working hours lead to a loss of prosperity. Is it really like that?

4-day week: Reduction in working hours only logical

Historically, it can be said that prosperity has always been accompanied by a reduction in working hours. In fact, today’s five-day week with 40 working hours is still young and by no means a law of nature that keeps the world in limbo, as Thelen claims. In Germany we have had them across the board since 1983, and some companies were experimenting with them as early as 1955. In the USA, Henry Ford announced it for his automobile company in 1914, and it has been established across the United States since the 1930s.

Previously, the six-day week with 48 working hours applied. In more detail, it is worth taking a look at the reliable figures from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). They show us significantly reduced working hours over the years in fact without a great loss of wealth. Today, Germans work an average of 1,349 hours a year. 30 years ago it was 1,554 hours, 50 years ago it was 2,155 hours and if we look back 150 years it was even a whopping 3,284 hours.

The working time has thus been reduced by around 60 percent in 150 years – but prosperity has increased. In 1950, the German gross domestic product per capita measured in today’s purchasing power was 2.15 US dollars. In 2017 it was already $36.93 an hour. So our prosperity has increased by 1,600 percent in 67 years, even though working hours have fallen by 43 percent. Unfortunately, the dates cannot be traced back 150 years, but it is unlikely that people in this country were better off in the 1870s.

The fact that we were able to shorten working hours and increase prosperity has to do with the modernization of production work processes. From the wheel to the loom to the assembly line, we as a society have made many processes more efficient with these innovative inventions. Computers and artificial intelligence brought and will bring us the next productivity booster and could in any case lead to us taking the next hurdle of reducing working hours. The emphasis is on “could”.

The truth is that those who now call a four-day week utopian have hardly innovated their organizations over the past few years. Jutta Rump from the Institute for Employment and Employability put it in a nutshell in a recent interview with t3n magazine: “We simply missed the introduction of the four-day week!” What she means is that companies missed it during the party years to innovate their business models. Now, in the crisis, they call for overtime to keep the profit.

We have to expect more depth of thought from someone like Thelen, who poses as a progressive spirit. He himself likes to work a lot and long hours, he writes on Linkedin. He can do that too. Just like people are allowed to do it the other way around. At least he allows them that. However, a widespread reduction in working hours is the next logical step that must accompany the digital revolution. “Our world doesn’t work with a four-day week,” he says? No, it’s just his world that doesn’t work then.

Henry Ford Effect – who is leading the way?

I would like to share a more exciting perspective: The first major employer that can afford to secure its business model through technological innovation while at the same time being able to ensure new working standards will inevitably have an immense pull on the job market. I call this the Henry Ford Effect. And it will come. Last but not least, the shortage of skilled workers and the consequences of the intensification of work mean that this progress cannot be stopped either.

On my own behalf: In our t3n guide you will learn how leadership works best in the home office and what team leaders and HR managers should pay attention to. Learn more for your job with our practical guides. Here’s the shop!

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Instagrammer Matt Shirley illustrates everyday working life: 10 graphics that make us feel

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