The views expressed in this article are strictly those of Max Wideman.
The contents of the book under review are the copyright property of the author.
Published here November 2017

Introduction | Book Structure | What We Found Most Interesting
The Author's Case for a Five-day Workweek | The Author's Vision Now and Into the Future

What We Found Most Interesting

Since I was brought up in the days of yore,[9] it should come as no surprise that I approached this book with a considerable degree of skepticism. Who is this advice for, how would a five-hour workday work in practice, especially on projects, and how could it be brought about, I wondered.

In his Introduction, the longest chapter in the book by the way, author Stephan Aarstoll starts out with:[10]

"WHAT IF I TOLD YOU THAT YOU COULD WORK FEWER HOURS and be paid the same, or even more? What if I told you that you could give all of your employees a raise for free, and they could go home early, everyday? What if I told you this is the fastest way to grow your business?

He then says . . .

"I doubt you would believe me, and I don't blame you. But here's the thing: I just did."

First and foremost, it is clear that the book's focus is on knowledge workers, or at least all those who use their brains at work. However, so far as the author's company is concerned it transpires that every employee themselves is expected to be something of an entrepreneur. As he says:

"To really advance your business in this era, ... You need your team to always be brainstorming, sharing ideas, and not necessarily in a formal way."[11]

"I look at our business like a football team. Everybody's got to be on the field at the same time, for us to accomplish our best. You've got to know that you can count on your teammates to be there, and perform, and inspire you to perform at your highest level too."[12]

A hidden killer[13]

"Flex time is another attempt at giving employees a better work-life balance, [but] it's twice as terrible as telecommuting. In extreme cases of flextime, business essentially doesn't have set working hours. If somebody likes working at night, they can come in and work at night. It someone likes taking five hours off in the middle of the day, they can do that. This all of a sudden makes it really hard to track when people are coming, when people are going, and nobody really knows how long anybody is there in the offices."

"... flex time is like having six players on the field instead of 11. ... That's how Flextime adds 24 hours to a one-minute task. And that's how companies with flextime and telecommuting lose customers and miss project deadlines. ... I look at our business like a football team. Everybody's got to be on the field at the same time, for us to accomplish our best."

The Warehouse example:[14]

"We have a warehouse. This was a tougher challenge, because they really were putting in more hours a day of labor. But it wasn't as efficient and productive as it could have been, so the five-hour workday forced them to innovate. That's the beauty of the new economy: there are technologies for nearly every problem. For warehouses, it's software. ... Software that eliminated many tasks that added labor hours.

When you've got plenty of hours to do your job, and twice as much time to get the work done, then who cares how the factory is laid out? Who cares about software? You just throw man-hours at things. ... That is why private enterprise almost always outperforms government agencies that basically have unlimited funds because they just raise revenue (taxes). The constraints of "profit or die" forces private companies to become efficient with both money and people."

"A five-hour workday is about being more productive, receiving the same or better pay, and getting your life back."[15]

However, for whom is this book really intended? Well, it is not until nearly the middle of the book that we get a clear statement, with this observation:[16]

"There's extensive discussion about wages in America right now [2016], as we're long overdue to raise minimum wage. But that's not going to do anything for work-life balance, happiness, and productivity in the knowledge-working world that this book is primarily focused upon." [The emphasis is mine.]

The real objective of the book:[17]

"The objective of the five-hour workday is to make you more efficient. If you can learn to produce the same amount of output in five hours as what you did previously in eight hours, you have to increase the value of your work. Once you've done that, you can keep optimizing your time and learn to do in five hours what most people do in two eight-hour days."

To me, this seems a bit of a stretch, but that's the benefit of the new technology. However, it also assumes the sweeping away of all those unnecessary Emails, and/or personal business during working hours. It's about continuous productivity specifically directed towards the required work at hand.

Book Structure  Book Structure

9. I.e pre- and post- second world war
10. Ibid, p9
11. Ibid, p111
12. Ibid, p113
13. Ibid, pp112-114
14. Ibid, p43
15. Ibid, p47
16. Ibid, p115
17. Ibid, p166
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