Employer President Steffen Kempterer wants us to be “more interested in working”. There sounds a cheeky accusation. Instead of insisting on longer working hours, we should talk about completely different things.
I’m really in the mood for work right now. To writing this opinion piece. Mr. Kempterer, your request is having an effect. Steffen Kempterer, general manager of the Confederation of Employers’ Associations (BDA), thinks that we need “more desire to work”, as he puts it in one. A debate on why it is necessary to work more. Why it’s exactly right to want to do it and whether part-time is really “so cool”. You can still get a good work-life balance with 39 hours of work a week.
The reason: the shortage of skilled workers. The BDA boss sees Germany’s competitive advantages of innovation and productivity at risk. An important, noble concern. Who would object? But it doesn’t take at least 39 hours a week to be innovative and productive – of which in some industries tens of hours are spent on monster meetings and mass mailings. It needs people who are trained and promoted based on their strengths and skills. Who feel seen and valued.
Four-day week experiment in the UK was a resounding success
When I look at families at risk, dwindling membership in clubs, increasing health and psychological problems and loneliness in our society, I ask myself whether the work-life balance is really going so well? As long as Germany does not make progress in childcare, longer working hours will remain wishful thinking for many families anyway. Quite apart from the question: Do they want that at all? We should pay much more attention to the concerns of those who are affected – the workers. Many of them want a four-day week. And that’s where there’s good news.
The result of a study from Great Britain encourages people to think about working hours in an innovative and productive way – and it is a well-known fact that innovation and productivity are also good for Germany. In the study, almost 3,000 employees received full wages for six months with a four-day week, but undertook to deliver 100 percent of the previous output. It worked. The turnover of the companies even increased by an average of 1.4 percent. There were fewer sick days, fewer people leaving, fewer people at risk of burnout. Women benefited particularly because men were now more involved in childcare on their days off. Sounds like people were more interested in working there. Most of the participating companies want to keep the concept.
The four-day week, part-time with sufficient wages: we need a debate about that, not about a supposedly lost joy in work and performance. In the case of the latter, the accusation resonates that employees are lazy. It’s cheeky to say that in such a general way. When they finally finish work at some point, these statements could also be read by teachers who are completely overwhelmed or by surgeons after an eight-hour operation. Or nurse after a night shift. Journalists who have just been fired because of austerity measures. long-term unemployed. people on temporary contracts. People who are committed and motivated to do their job every day, often with overtime.
And anyone who works with part-time workers, especially moms, knows they tend to have a better grip on their work. Because they can’t waste time because they set priorities, they are more efficient at work than many who work full-time.
What do we actually want?
Work more, work longer – Steffen Kempterer also demands this with a view to retirement. And he’s right: things can’t go on as they are. We have a huge pension problem. Its solution also includes discussions about raising the retirement age in an aging society. But here, too, increasing working hours and “being more willing to work” cannot solve all problems. Too many pillars of our system stand on shaky foundations for that. What is needed above all is politics and expertise on how we can restructure our pension system and make it future-proof.
Burnout, overload and Co.
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Speaking of the future: If you believe experts in artificial intelligence, we are facing nothing less than a revolution in our working lives. AI expert Richard Socher said in an interview with the star, AI will change all jobs. “If more and more industries and jobs are automated, we have more and more time to do what we want. But then the question is: what do we actually want?” Perhaps we should have a debate on that too. That would be innovative.