Via GigaOM, Cisco, the company that likely made most of the routers that delivered this page to you, announced numerous cost cutting measures including a four day year end shutdown. Despite Cisco's ubiquity in the networking market, the recession is hitting them, as everyone, hard.
We will be target reductions in travel and discretionary-related expenses, including offsites, outside services, equipment, events, trade shows, marketing and other activities. As part of this effort, we will also implement a year-end shutdown of the US-Canada theater from December 29, 2008, through January 2, 2009 (note that January 1 is already a holiday). There will be some exceptions for targeted business-critical teams including technical assistance services and channel partner and customer product ordering services.
This brings to light a simple, effective strategy for cost cutting: work less. Despite the promise that increased automation could reduce overall labour, the eight hour work day has changed little since it's origins in Britain around the Industrial Revolution. France's 35 hour work week is well known.
While some make bold claims that a 4 hour week is possible, a 32 hour/4 day week seems to be a manageable alternative. The benefits are straightforward: happier and healthier workers, less time and energy spent commuting, less energy spent in keeping offices lit and heated, and reduced unemployment. Against conventional wisdom, there is evidence to suggest that it increases productivity.
In the recent Vancouver election, the Work Less Party ran on a platform of a 32 hour work week and garnered fair support for a young, fringe party. Earlier this month the United Taconite steel plant in Minnesota, in agreement with the union, implemented a 32 hour week instead of layoffs. Web 2.0 company 37signals (Basecamp, Ruby on Rails) runs a 4 day work week. Founder Jason Fried argues that it's not about laziness, less is more:
The point of the 4-day work week is about doing less work. It’s not about 4 10-hour days for the magical 40-hour work week. It’s about 4 normalish 8-hour days for the new and improved 32-hour work week. The numbers are just used to illustrate a point. Results, not hours, are what matter, but working longer hours doesn’t translate to better results. The law of diminishing returns kicks in quick when you’re overworked.
Besides, very few people work even 8 hours a day. You’re lucky if you get a few good hours in between all the meetings, interruptions, web surfing, office politics, and personal business that permeates typical work day.
Fewer official working hours help squeeze the fat out of the typical work week. Once everyone has less time to get their stuff done, they respect that time even more. People become stingy with their time and that’s a good thing. They don’t waste it on things that just don’t matter. When you have fewer hours you usually spend them more wisely.
So if your management says that layoffs are necessary, maybe you could suggest that instead everyone work... less?