I had a discussion with Buu Nguyen on the topic: Shorter working week in the IT industry
The article that inspired the discussion
IT’s future – how about 20-hour work weeks?
CIOs need to prepare for the 20-hour working week as social models and technologies change to promote a work-light future, analyst house Gartner predicts.
By 2015, more people will spend less time in work as companies surrender to individual demands to retain more experienced and skilled workers.
Brian Prentice, research director of emerging trends and technologies at Gartner said as IT becomes woven into the fabric of people’s lives, traditional work/home boundaries will become obsolete and a “digital free-agency” will emerge.
The “digital free-agency” is a term coined by Gartner to describe how professional and personal computing requirements are being blended to enable different working models–such as working from home and part time roles.
Prentice said: “CIOs need to prepare for the arrival of this new work phenomenon, which is being driven by political, social and technology changes.”
These changes include the move away from a single bread-winner family model and the shift away from the conventional view of retirement as the end of working life, said the analyst house.
Prentice added: “The additional pressures of an ageing population and skills shortages will lead to the adoption of digital free-agency and flexible work structures as social, political and business necessities.”
Traditional nine-to-five work structures are inhibiting people’s ability to juggle personal and professional responsibilities and the 20-hour working week is designed to retain skilled workers who are not able or willing to work 40-hour weeks, according to Gartner.
Gartner said the potential power of this combined demographic will be a “force to be reckoned with” by governments and businesses around the world.
Prentice added CIOs need to accept the fact there will be an increase in jobs with shorter working weeks and develop specific governance strategies to take a more proactive approach towards this predicted business change.
Nice article, this is not something to be surprised about, as 36-hour work week is spreading out in Europe.
Here, the writer pointed out several reasons for the emergence of this prediction
1. Enterprises will be willing to hire specialists after their statutory retirement. This is ‘backed-up’ by an ageing population.
2. More flexible work structures need to be introduced in order for IT firms to attract the skillful (who are usually more demanding) for dealing with skill shortage.
So I want to start a discussion with some questions for you
1. What other factors do you think will add up to this trend
2. When will this be happening in Vietnam?
The article means people will work 20 hours/week for a particular job, it does not mean they don’t have other jobs at other companies or by self-employment.
People work less hours not because of things like “flexible work structure” or “lack of skilled resources” – these are reasons for flexible-hour jobs, not reasons for fewer hours. People can work less hours because they have increased their productivity to the level that they can produce enough value in their working hours to fulfill their needs (recognition, purchasing power etc.) Of course, some people (like Bill Gates) do not need to care about the hours at all, they work because they like to work, not so much because of money or recognition (anymore).
So, the real question is when man-kind reaches the productivity state that they can work much less hours (less than 40 hours) and produce much value than what necessary to fulfill their needs. As human needs are unlimited and as there are new needs every single day (e.g. cavemen don’t need money to go to Karaoke), and as there will be more and more people who work longer hours for fun (e.g. Bill Gates), I don’t think 20-hour/week working will happen by 2015 or even 2030 or 2040.
BTW, when in time does the Matrix take place ?
I think I already answered the questions in the above paragraphs, but here the quick sum:
>> 1. What other factors do you think will add up to this tend
- Value created + Needs
>> 2. When will this be happening in Vietnam?
- Value created > Needs (and nobody likes working for fun)
I agree with you that “flexible work structure”, or more accurately, “work schedule with less time dedication” is the consequence for a bargaining process between workers and employer, not the cause of the change.
However, you don’t pay much attention to the fact mentioned by Prentice that firms are to make concessions to retain the skillful. In developed countries with ageing population, the number of people joining the workforce does not compensate for the loss of retirement. Shorter work week that allows the retired to have more time for their personal interest and family is an interim way for the firms to deal with the lack of resource.
Can this be happening in developing countries, where the population is young and the skillfulness of workers is not strong enough for bargaining?
My answer is theoretically yes, for a reason different from the one discussed above. Shorter work week can help to reduce unemployment rate, assuming that the currently unemployed can perform at an acceptable level. The skillful ones, allowed to take on more than one job, are in good condition to be more efficient in tasks that require creativity.
I agree with most you say – it’s no different in principle with what I try to argue though. What matters is the value produced, if the aging folks can still add value, it is more helpful to the nation if they are encouraged to work rather than staying idle. Hence, flexible working hours is the trend (but that is a different issue from everyone can work 20 hours as like they work 40 hours now).
>> Shorter work week can help to reduce unemployment rate,
>> assuming that the currently unemployed can perform at
>> an acceptable level.
Good point! I like it that you do mention about “acceptable level” . But be careful with this though, it also depends on the amount of available work. Otherwise, there’s no point in having 2 persons to do part-time for 1 person full-time job unless it’s very necessary to do so.