The 40 hour workweek is a square peg in today’s 24/7 lifestyle

In Holland, working 4 days a week, or less, is the norm. What began with a culture that focuses on family and women working part time has evolved into men and women choosing to work less for less pay and far more flexibility.

What exactly does that mean as we look to the future of work and play and family? Almost everything I would venture to predict.

Most of us have known for years that the 40 hour work week was a square peg in the round hole of our 24/7 lives. With today’s electronics we are buying shoes online in the evening and receiving them the next day! Many of us shop for groceries after dinner and we can eat breakfast anytime of day at a wide selection of 24 hour restaurants.

At my agency most executives are on call any day, any time. And we should be; want to be! Things happen and clients rely on us to be available after 5pm, before 9am not to mention weekends and holidays. This is evident as hospitals open 24 hour “care facilities” and retailers are staying open later and later.

Almost all travel operations are doing business 24 hours a day, transactions in the auto, real estate and food industries are concentrated on the weekends or nights – how does the old model of 40 hours a week fit?

It doesn’t. The Dutch give us a look at what might replace our current systems as the Boomers age and the next generations take over. Part time work and flexible schedules for 40 hour workers is the key to all this, and is exactly what will create the domino effect.

IF there are many more part time workers, then the office too will look different. At Microsoft in several European countries there are 6 desks to every 10 employees. Many employees can work their designated hours “anytime and anywhere”.

That will mean a big change for commercial real estate – fewer desks needed means less square footage and less business support services concentrated in a business district too. It also means the trend toward our homes having office space will become standard and change the footprint of what is selling in residential real estate. Those home offices will mandate better connectivity and business services will move into neighborhoods to support the home office transition.

It also means traffic patterns change – rush hour is a term of the past if hours are anytime and offices are anywhere. Clothing will change too – no suits needed if you are working from home. Recruiters will have a whole new set of perks to offer new hires and I bet you can come up with many more shifts we’ll be seeing as this trend moves forward.

My favorite fact about this trend is that 96 percent of the Dutch people polled said they like working part time, like the quality of life that comes from flexible schedules and wouldn’t change the system. The pollsters also say residents of the Netherlands are among the happiest population in the world.

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