The 21 Hour Work Week

I read this report on a 21 hour work week by the NEF 3 years ago (when it first came out).  It talks about the benefits that would be achieved if society adopted or moved towards a 21 hour work week – the benefits which included economic, heatlh and community.  It really is worth a read.

Since reading it, the idea of a 21 hour week has really stuck with me.  I think I’ve long been thinking of how to society could work better.  It was part of the reason why I helped set up a coworking space a few years back.  Having kids also makes many people (including myself) re-consider their work situation.

I’ve had it as a goal of mine to work towards a 21 hour week because it feels right to me. The stress of a full 40 hour work week plus commuting time just feels like too much for me and my young family.  It’s taken me a while to get there, but I believe my shorter work week is now here.

I’ve long thought it’s ludricous that society is fixated on a strict 40 hour work week, often with the expectation to work longer hours.  Sure some jobs need employees to be around at specific times, but there are so many jobs that are so close minded about work hours and flexibility.  Then there are articles like this one congratulating an entrepreneur because he works 40 hours per week (not 60, 80 or 100).  There’s a lot of wrong there if we think someone has it so great because they work 40 hours per week.

Of course this depends on the job, but if you give someone 40 hours to work per week it is highly likely that their work will take them 40 or more hours to do.  If you give them 20 hours, I bet you they would be much more productive or creative in how they can get their job done.

As someone who runs their own little business, I am always conscious of the time I spend working.  I’m not always at the 21 hour per week mark.  However, I am always looking to cut out things that just take up too much of my time.  Like meetings and travelling. I also have to think much harder about where I spend the time – my time needs to be used to be used as effectively as possible, eliminate any kind of waste, bring in some kind of value to my business and/or be helping give me achieve some kind of work happiness – if it’s not then I don’t bother.

Like anything, a 21 hour work week is highly unlikely to happen overnight, but it is possible if you work towards it as a goal.  I feel like I am almost getting there.

Sure, perhaps if I worked harder then my business would grow faster, I’m sure it would to a certain extent. However, I do believe the work I’m doing needs time to grow. Whenever I try to push things too fast then I feel like I make the wrong decisions.

The ironic thing is that I still feel busier than ever, but it’s a good busy and it’s not all ‘work’.