Emerging technologies (Robots, AI, Machine Learning) can improve the speed, quality, and cost of goods and services. Yet, they also release increasing numbers of workers to the unemployment world, challenging the traditional benefits model. For this reason, it is crucial to think about what is the future of work.
Examples of how companies are replacing employees by technology
- Recently, Amazon has organized a “picking challenge” to test robots that would “autonomously grab items from a shelf and place them in a tub.” The company has around 50,000 people working in its warehouses. It is also testing if robots can perform the tasks of selecting items and moving them around the warehouse. As a result of the test a Berlin robot successfully completed ten of the twelve tasks. Currently the company already uses around 15,000 robots and it plans to grow this artificial team.
- Some restaurants are using tablets that allow customers to order at the place directly. With that, there is no requirement of talking to a waiter or waitress. Others allow people to pay directly, via panels such as menu in screens. Still, others use AI to tell chefs how much of an ingredient to add to a dish, which cuts down on food expenses.
What happened with the workforce expectations?
In the past, and with the rise of new technologies that reduce physical effort and monotony, the future of work seemed promising. Yet, from that time until today, some countries are increasing working hours despite technological advances and global mental health awareness.
4-day work week as part of the solution
When we talk about the future of work, countries as Germany are in the list of the shortest average working weeks in Europe. Based on the World Economic Forum (WEF), the average working week in Germany has 34.2 hours.
Forsa survey retrieved that 71% of people working in Germany would like to have the option to work four days a week instead of five or six days.
In addition, more than 3,300 employees at 70 UK companies have begun working a four-day working week with no reduction in pay. The pilot project started this year (2022) and it will run for six months. The working hours and salary are based on the 100-80-100 model: 100% pay for 80% of the time but maintaining a 100% productivity.
Some groups are promoting this new agreement in between the employees and the companies, recognizing that the new frontier for competition is quality of life. Groups such as 4dayweek and other NGOs are carrying surveys to prove the majority of employees are looking for 4 day work week.
Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, a poll of 36,000 Americans carried out by YouGov America found that two-thirds would prefer a four-day work week no matter how many hours were required per day to achieve the 100% of the full-time productivity.
Benefits of 4-day work week
Many companies are still experimenting the 4-day work week and reporting about the benefits, which until now are many.
- Improves mental health and avoids burnout
With a well-developed 4-day work week program, companies can improve their employee’s mental health and avoid employee burnout and massive leaves.
Burnout results on employees feeling overloaded, less productive, and eager to leave their current job. It is so spread that the WHO recently updated their definition of burnout to a “syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
If this is ignored, burnout can bring negative impacts in employees’ personal lives and the workplace.
It is possible to manage burnout with leadership, allowing employees to assist on shaping the scope of their roles.
Many studies show that a shortened work week can impact positively on employee burnout.
- Increases productivity.
There have been many studies supporting that 4-day work week increases the productivity and is the future of work. Regarding this, Microsoft Japan tried a 4-day work week and saw a 40% increase in productivity.
It is a fact that accomplishing the same amount of work in less time requires planning, dedication, and discipline.
The good news is that a shorter work week can motivate workers to be more focused about their time management.
- Increases Family Time and Life Quality
By reducing working hours during the week, employees will spend more time maintaining responsibilities and other activities in their homes. Consequently, they will be feeling satisfied with their global performance in life, reducing burn out and massive leaves.
Despite sounding like a nice idea, working fewer hours each week is correlated with productivity and talent retention.
And if automation reduces human jobs in the future, there needs to be a way to deliver more benefits.