Let’s plough on with turning things upside-down and considering or even normalising things we never thought we would; like longing for actual physical skin on skin contact as opposed to screens…..and….yes its happened, we are contemplating life in Ireland without pubs for the foreseeable future!!
I am proposing we go mad and get rid of the notion of the weekend being a Saturday and Sunday! Why can’t it be a Wednesday and Thursday for some?
As you may be aware there has been much written in support of a four day week and the additional productivity it can bring for individual businesses and the economy as a whole, i.e.
My personal view is that in the medium term, (until we get a cure or vaccine for COVID-19) we need to take this concept much further and consider working any 5 continuous days (or indeed 4 days) over the 7 day calendar week. To use rostering terminology, Ireland should embrace the use of a 5 over 7 week for all sectors of the economy (both public and private) for which flexible scheduling might be viable.
Consider one of the most significant challenges facing many of Ireland’s businesses over the next 12-18 months, including; retailers, hospitality providers, transport providers and creches. How can they possibly achieve viable capacity levels whilst maintaining social distancing?
It occurred to me that the annualised realised capacity numbers for these businesses is probably somewhere between 70% and 90%, assuming full capacity during busy weekends and holidays and, 30% – 50% in quiet periods such as midweek. (Unfortunately I cannot get actual statistics on realised capacity, and numbers will vary significantly depending on location and footfall).
Imagine an Ireland where any day of the week is fair game for recreational activities and the supply of domestic consumers is spread evenly over all 7 days as opposed to spiking at weekends. Businesses could spread their capacity in a more even and standardised fashion helping to mitigate losses in their annual revenue whilst complying with social distancing.
There is sufficient research in the area of productivity and flexible working hours to convince any government that this concept is worth supporting in the medium term. Recent research has shown that full time workers that have flexible working arrangements exert more effort and increase the level of productivity in comparison with workers who work under a regular schedule (Boltz et al, 2019).
The success of the implementation of flexible working practices to this extent will depend on several issues:
1. The feasibility of implementation will vary across business categories, for example those who operate in an international context where traditional schedules remain might find flexible scheduling a challenge.2. For it to succeed as a concept to solve our COVID-19 problems Ireland would need to reach a critical mass with regards to uptake. What would that critical mass be? (a job for an statistician)!3. It would require close to simultaneous 100% commitment from employers, workers unions and government.4. Employment legislation will likely have to be reviewed to manage the established custom and practice of compensating workers for working weekends, currently defined as Saturday and Sundays.5. Finally, we don’t have the luxury of time. This needs to happen now and not in 12 months.
Eight weeks ago I would have said this proposal was far too radical, but now I’m not so sure. I’m not saying flexible work schedules are the panacea for all our problems…but surely food/pints/haircuts etc. for thought!
I welcome all comments and discussion, in particular from businesses who will struggle to remain commercially viable with the new social distancing requirements.
Reference used: Boltz et al, How does flexible schedules affect workers’ productivity? A Field Experiment, June 2019, https://sistemas.colmex.mx/Reportes/LACEALAMES/LACEA-LAMES2019_paper_573.pdf, May 2020.