On the 20-hour work week: All in favor?

There’s an interesting idea which keeps popping up on my radar these early days of our new year, and I love it. It’s an inventive call to action:

Let’s shift what we value in society today, by shifting to the 20-hour work week.

The argument behind this proposal, is that our 40-hour work week has been our convention, but convention isn’t unquestionable fact. Convention isn’t necessarily right, and it may not be that good for us anymore — Was it ever?

The idea is being touted as a sorting-out solution to present unemployment and underemployment levels, wherein we can share the wealth as a better networked society: One job (40 hours per week), designed the old way, can now be held by two people, and designed in a new way (20 hours per week for each of them.)

Breaking free of our convention will be quite radical; it will require adjustments of epic proportion in compensation, legality, managerial mindset, union reorganization” the list is lengthy. But here’s the thing: The possibility of it happening is the unexpected silver lining of The Great Recession. The idea is not that new, however conditions for this change have never been as ripe.

And the reward is absolutely dazzling: A better quality of life for each of us, where work is no longer such a tight shackle. When you decrease the hours in which you labor, you increase the hours available to you for more variety — for what we’ve long referred to as “the spice of life.”

Breakfast at Kenny & Zuke’s Delicatessen

I for one, am fervently hoping this idea of the 20-hour work week gains more traction. Let’s reinvent our ‘Ohana in Business in a big way. We can align this visionary thinking with our Aloha Business model in 2012, I know we can, for this is something I am already doing. I have a 20-hour work week now, and you can have it too, no matter what it is you do.

How can you lead in this effort?
What is the first step that you can personally take, leading by virtue of your own good example?

“Example has more followers than reason.”
~ Christian Nevell Bovee

Here are those blips on the radar if you want to read more:

  1. Cut the working week to a maximum of 20 hours, urge top economists
    Heather Stewart at The Observer reports: “Job sharing and increased leisure are the answer to rising unemployment, claims thinktank.”
  2. Fast Company Co.Exist: The Case For A 21-Hour Work Week
    “It would create jobs and stop the unsustainable cycle of rampant consumerism. Sure, it would also require a wholesale reordering of our economy, but that might happen whether we like it or not.”
  3. Update, March 1st: Just read this via a Daily Good reprint, but it was originally published last September: Less Work, More Living:
    “Earn less, spend less, emit and degrade less. That’s the formula. The more time a person has, the better his or her quality of life, and the easier it is to live sustainably.”

Discover the power of 5 Minutes: A book excerpt from Managing with AlohaD5MBetterMgr


  1. says

    I like this idea very much Rosa. I work (in a paid job) 15 hours a week, leaving plenty of time for other exploits. It would indeed require a wholesale transformation of society – but then isn’t a wholesale transformation of society precisely what is needed? ;-)

    • Rosa Say says

      You are a wonderful example of the ‘Imi ola transformations the 20-hour work week can afford us Joanna! I have loved watching you stretch as you learn and explore; ‘exploits’ is a good word for it :)

  2. Roselia Conrad says

    Yes, I’m all for the 20 hr work week and have put that into practice, semi-unconsciously.
    Now, I can fully embrace my choice consciously with great enthusiasm. I knew I was onto a good thing!! I’ve been having very enjoyable “other days” doing only those things I love to do. And, I’ve gotten to know myself so much better…stretching, learning, exploring. It’s a good life!

  3. Rosa Say says

    If your “old work” was condensed to a 20-hour workweek, you could design your “new work” with A Precious Hour. Rands explains here.


    Other than spending time with my family, my absolute favorite time of the week is Saturday morning. I sleep in a little bit, walk upstairs, start the coffee process, and wander over to the computer. There’s a Dropbox folder titled “Latest Rands Articles” and right this moment there are 65 articles in progress there. After a brief stumble of the Internet, a precious time begins. I have precisely the right music on, in the center of my screen is a wall of words, and in that moment I’m decidedly not busy, I’m not working – I am building a thing and I need this time every single day.

    Starting at the beginning of February, I made a change. Each day I blocked off a precious hour to build something.

    Every day. One hour. No matter what.

    In my precious hour, I am aware that it is quiet. During this silence, maybe nothing at all is built other than the room I’ve given myself to think. I break the flow of enticing small things to do, I separate myself from the bright people on similarly impressive busy quests, and I listen to what I’m thinking.


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