Working hours

Posted by Kirsten Gibbs on May 20, 2020
  • My husband has just forwarded me an article about short-time working.   It suggests that having too much work is as bad as having no work for mental health and wellbeing, and that therefore, short-time working may be part of the solution to both unemployment and employee stress.

    That reminded me of a conversation I had a year or so ago, with my German client, about how he dealt with seasonal demand for the products of his factory.

    His solution was simple, and it appears, quite common in that part of the world.

    Each year, he worked out how much work he expected there to be going through the factory, and when the peaks and troughs were likely to occur.   Some months would be very quiet, other months would be extremely busy.

    Rather than lay people off in quiet times, or pay overtime or hire casual workers in busy times, the business owner agreed with each and every employee how many hours they would work over the year.   That figure was then divided by 12 to arrive at their monthly salary.

    Then, during average months, they would work average days in the factory.   During the very busy months, they would be expected to work longer days in the factory.   And in quiet months, they were expected to stay at home.   Each individual’s plan took into account school holidays and other demands as far as possible, as long as the work got done when it was needed.

    It worked well for both sides.   The MD got people on call when he needed them most and a predictable monthly outlay.  The employees got a predictable income, and the opportunity to have more time for other things over the year.   Customer got what they wanted when they wanted reliably and consistently.

    Planning, consultation, negotiation.

    Who’d have thought it?   Treating everyone like grown-ups, citizens even, works better for everyone.

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