Why we need to get rid of the antiquated idea of judging work by time
By Craig Allan, Staff Writer
With so much at stake, time theft does seem like a big problem, but how do we solve it?
There is a pandemic sweeping the world. This pandemic is causing workers to be lethargic, lazy, and unkempt as they sit around their homes casually doing a load of laundry or watching the antics on Live with Kelly and Ryan. No, this pandemic is not the coronavirus, but it is a factor in the rise of this scourge. It is a problem occurring in the home offices and makeshift dining room office tables of the world. The virus is that of time theft.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, many companies have asked their employees to work from home. This has led to a lot of think pieces prophesizing the occurrence of time theft, where employees spend time where they should be working doing non-related work tasks. Searches online will yield many articles detailing how we might go about solving time theft, but there is one aspect of fixing time theft that none of them bring up: it’s time that we get rid of the concept of work hours entirely.
The concept of the standard eight-hour work day, which is commonly considered a full day of work, comes from a man named Robert Owen in 1817 who advocated for it because he believed that a person could spend eight hours at work, eight hours sleeping, and have eight hours of recreation. This idea took off and began to be advocated by many labour groups and unions. Over 100 years later, it was officially established in the United States under the Fair Labour Standards Act, and later in Canada in the 1960s. The number of hours someone works is not limited to what constitutes a full workday. Canada uses it to determine what a full-time job is, and how much employment insurance you should get if you are laid off. Canada even has a whole employment structure called the minimum wage which is determined by the hour. With so much at stake, time theft does seem like a big problem, but how do we solve it? Instead of micromanaging time, or going to new automated systems, maybe it’s time to rethink the idea of work hours all together?
That is the concept of “make your own hours,” where employees are judged not by the hours they work, but that they get the work done. If we judged work based on what needs to be done, we might find that people will be more productive. As for what people will be paid, the answer to that is already in practice. Everyone will be paid a flat salary when they work. Instead of counting nickels and dimes on everyone’s paycheques, someone will be paid a salary already negotiated when they were hired and adjusted at various times of employment, through either a monthly or yearly number. Advocates of the four-day work week have argued that people still get their work done outside of the eight-hour work week, showing that the archaic idea of an eight-hour workday is just that: archaic.
However, not all time should be abolished. Time should still be judged to avoid situations like employers forcing workers to work 12 or 18 hours in a day, but for most, the idea of work should not be judged by a system established decades ago. Some are predicting that we may be entering an era of a new progressive movement in the near future, where we begin to tackle the norms of society in the hopes of abolishing or improving on those norms. If this is the case, maybe society needs to look not at preventing the problem of time theft but abolishing, or in some cases improving on the mechanism that is leading to time theft. Afterall, the phrase is a hard day’s work, not a hard time’s work.