Joe O’Connor is one of the world’s foremost experts on the shorter work week. He is the CEO and Co-Founder of Work Time Reduction, a consulting and research organization that specializes in shorter work week models and outcomes-focused working.
Prior to Work Time Reduction, as the CEO of 4 Day Week Global, Joe developed the world’s first pilot program of the four-day work week.
Joe has conducted research projects with Boston College, University College Dublin, and Cornell.
- Let’s start with the history of the standard work week. How did it take shape?
- In 1930, economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that his grandkids might work 15-hour weeks with technology gains. Why hasn’t that happened?
- Covid reshaped people’s views on the office. Have the last few years changed perceptions of the work week?
- What percent of companies are on a 4-day week and is that trend growing?
- If AI will be doing a bunch of work humans at desks used to do, how does that change the structure of work and the work week?
Below, you’ll find some key takeaways shared in answering each question. The takeaways were created by ChatGPT based on the written transcript of the interview.
Historical Perspective on Work Week Duration
O’Connor discussed the evolution of the work week, highlighting that the current 40-hour, 5-day work week structure is a man-made construct dating back over two centuries. It was primarily established during the industrial era to match productivity and technology advancements at that time.
Technological Advances and Work Hours
Despite significant technological progress, such as the internet and digital communications, the standard work week has largely remained unchanged. This stagnation contradicts earlier predictions by economists like John Maynard Keynes, who expected significant reductions in work hours due to increased productivity.
Impact of COVID-19 on Work Perceptions
The pandemic altered perceptions about where and when work is done, making remote work more acceptable and leading to a reevaluation of traditional work models. It has spurred a shift toward outcomes-based work rather than time-based.
Changing Employee Priorities
O’Connor noted a change in employee values, especially among younger generations. There’s a growing preference for experiences, environmental sustainability, and more leisure time over mere monetary compensation.
Four-Day Work Week and Remote Work
The interview touched on the correlation between companies adopting remote work and a four-day work week. The pandemic has accelerated interest in shorter work weeks as companies seek to retain a competitive edge and offer attractive work arrangements.
AI and Future Work Models
Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be a key determinant in further reducing work hours. As AI streamlines tasks and processes, it creates an opportunity for early adopters to leverage work time reduction as an incentive for embracing new technologies.
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