Category Archives: Hours of Work

Is Community Service Compensable? DOL Offers An Opinion

Source: Maureen Minehan, Employment Alert, Volume 36, Issue 23, November 12, 2019
(subscription required)

At Salesforce, the provider of customer relationship management solutions, volunteerism is a deeply ingrained core value. From restoring local habitats to helping children in need, Salesforce employees can participate in numerous activities on- and off-the-clock to address myriad needs in their communities. “From the beginning, giving back was the best decision we ever made—it created a culture that attracts and retains the best and the brightest, and allows our employees to be change makers in their own communities,” the company says.

Still, in keeping with the adage that no good deed goes unpunished, questions sometimes arise about the compensability of employees’ volunteer work. If a non-exempt employee volunteers during non-work hours for a company-sanctioned cause or event, are those hours compensable? Can companies offer bonuses or other inducements to encourage employees to volunteer?

Work Scheduling for American Mothers, 1990 and 2012

Source: Peter Hepburn, Social Problems, Latest Articles, October 26, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
American working conditions have deteriorated over the last 40 years. One commonly-noted change is the rise of nonstandard and unstable work schedules. Such schedules, especially when held by mothers, negatively affect family functioning and the well-being and development of children; they have implications for the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage. This article describes and compares the working schedules—in terms of type, duration, and variability—of American mothers in 1990 and 2012 in an attempt to assess whether nonstandard and unstable schedules are growing more common. Analyses demonstrate that evening work has increased in prevalence for single mothers but not for their partnered peers. Mothers in both single-mother and two-partner households experienced considerably greater within-week schedule variability and higher likelihood of weekend work in 2012 than they did in 1990. These changes resulted from widespread shifts in the nature of work, especially affecting less educated mothers.

Three Big Ideas for a Future of Less Work and a Three-Dimensional Alternative

Source: Cynthia Estlund, Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 82 no. 3, 2019

….At the same time, each of those three big ideas holds within it an essential component of a sound three dimensional response to the uncertain but real prospect of job losses. In lieu of UBI [universal basic income], we should expand universal social benefits—starting with health care and higher education—and income support for the working and non-working poor. In lieu of a federal job guarantee, we should ramp up public investments in infrastructure, social and community services, and early education, all of which would address unmet societal needs while creating decent jobs. And in lieu of (or at least before) reducing weekly hours of work across the board, we should expand access to paid leaves, holidays, and vacations, as well as voluntary part-time work and retirement security; we could thereby spread work and meet varied individual needs and preferences through days, weeks, months, and years of time off.

In combination, these three interventions—expanded universal social benefits and income support, public investments in physical and social infrastructure and the job creation those will entail, and wider access to paid leaves and respites from work—would advance core objectives of each of the three big ideas while muting their disadvantages. Together they would both cushion and offset automation-related job losses, while spreading the work that remains and maintaining or boosting incomes. This trio of policies could and should also be funded in a way that helps to redistribute income from the top to the bottom of an egregiously and increasingly lopsided income distribution.

…..In what follows, I will fill in the outlines of this argument. Part II will briefly set out some normative priors about the multiple ends we should be pursuing as we face a future of less work. A long Part III will take up each of the Three Big Ideas, briefly tracing their genealogy and identifying some strengths and weaknesses of each. Part IV will return to the core aspirations of the Three Big Ideas, and sketch a combination of the three – a three-dimensional strategy – that can preserve much of the good while avoiding much that is problematic in the more single-minded Three Big Ideas. ….

On the Grid 24/7/365 and the Right to Disconnect

Source: C. W. Von Bergen, Martin S. Bressler, and Trevor L. Proctor, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 45, No. 2, Autumn 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Technological developments over the past few decades in laptop computers, smartphones, wifi connectivity, and other digital communication approaches have made it easier for people to work remotely. While many appreciate the flexibility and increased productivity these technological advancements provide, some lament that the ability to work anywhere, anytime has transformed into the expectation to work everywhere, all the time. The authors of this article discuss the issue and examine domestic and international right to disconnect practices.

Consequences of Routine Work-Schedule Instability for Worker Health and Well-Being

Source: Daniel Schneider, Kristen Harknett, American Sociological Review, OnlineFirst, Published February 1, 2019
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From the abstract:
Research on precarious work and its consequences overwhelmingly focuses on the economic dimension of precarity, epitomized by low wages. But the rise in precarious work also involves a major shift in its temporal dimension, such that many workers now experience routine instability in their work schedules. This temporal instability represents a fundamental and under-appreciated manifestation of the risk shift from firms to workers. A lack of suitable existing data, however, has precluded investigation of how precarious scheduling practices affect workers’ health and well-being. We use an innovative approach to collect survey data from a large and strategically selected segment of the U.S. workforce: hourly workers in the service sector. These data reveal that exposure to routine instability in work schedules is associated with psychological distress, poor sleep quality, and unhappiness. Low wages are also associated with these outcomes, but unstable and unpredictable schedules are much more strongly associated. Precarious schedules affect worker well-being in part through the mediating influence of household economic insecurity, yet a much larger proportion of the association is driven by work-life conflict. The temporal dimension of work is central to the experience of precarity and an important social determinant of well-being.

Sleepy anger: Restricted sleep amplifies angry feelings

Source: Zlatan Krizan, Garrett Hisler, Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, October 25, 2018
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From the abstract:
Despite extensive ties between sleep disruption, anger, and aggression, it is unclear whether sleep loss plays a causal role in shaping anger. On one hand, negative affect and distress frequently follow curtailed sleep, suggesting increased anger responses. On the other hand, fatigue and withdrawal also follow, potentially muting anger. To examine these competing possibilities, 142 community residents were randomly assigned to either maintain or restrict their sleep over 2 days. Before and after, these participants rated their anger and affect throughout a product-rating task alongside aversive noise. Sleep restriction universally intensified anger, reversing adaptation trends in which anger diminished with repeated exposure to noise. Negative affect followed similar patterns, and subjective sleepiness mediated most of the experimental effects on anger. These findings highlight important consequences of everyday sleep loss on anger and implicate sleepiness in dysregulation of anger and hedonic adaptation.

Related:
Even Occasional Sleep Loss Makes People Angrier
Source: Angie Hunt, Futurity, November 27, 2018

Losing just a couple hours of sleep at night makes you angrier, especially in frustrating situations, according to new research.

While the results may seem intuitive, the study is one of the first to provide evidence that sleep loss causes anger.

Other studies have shown a link between sleep and anger, but questions remained about whether sleep loss was to blame or if anger was responsible for disrupted sleep, says study coauthor Zlatan Krizan, a psychology professor at Iowa State University.

The research, which appears in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, answers those questions and provides new insight into our ability to adjust to irritating conditions when tired. ….

Union lobbies Congress to mandate an eight-hour workday, Aug. 20, 1866

Source: Andrew Glass, Politico, August 20, 2018

On this day in 1866, the newly organized National Labor Union called on Congress to mandate an eight-hour workday. The coalition of skilled and unskilled workers, farmers and reformers pressured Congress to enact labor reforms. It dissolved in 1873 following an ill-advised venture into third-party politics in the 1872 presidential election.

Although the NLU failed to persuade Congress to shorten the workday, its efforts heightened public awareness of labor issues and increased public support for labor reform in the 1870s and 1880s.

The Knights of Labor, a powerful advocate for the eight-hour day in the 1870s and early 1880s, proved more effective. By 1886, the Knights counted 700,000 laborers, shopkeepers and farmers among its members. Under the leadership of Terrence V. Powderly, the union discouraged strikes and advocated restructuring society along cooperative lines…..

Colorado School District Gives Students 4-Day Weeks

Source: Suzannah Weiss, Teen Vogue, August 15, 2018

Many of us wish we could have longer weekends, but for about 18,000 students in Colorado, that wish is coming true. A school district outside Denver has decided to shorten its week to four days, and the first school year on this new schedule just started, CBS Denver reports. It began on Tuesday, August 14, because the day students get off is everyone’s least favorite: Monday.

While this may sound like a dream come true, it means students will have to sit through longer school days to make up for the hours they’ve lost, according to The Denver Post.

The decision wasn’t made just to give students more days off, though; it had practical motivations: to save money and attract better teachers. The district estimates that it will save $1 million by not having buses on Mondays, hiring fewer subs, and spending less on utilities, according to KUSA Denver. ….

…. Around 560 districts in 25 states include schools with four-day weeks, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, but evidence is mixed on how the different schedule affects students’ performance. ….

Four-Day Working Week Trial

Source: Perpetual Guardian, 2018

Perpetual Guardian is embarking on a world-first: we are running an unprecedented productivity trial for six weeks, starting 5 March. As part of the trial, all our staff – more than 200 people around New Zealand – are being offered a free day off every week. All other employment conditions, including remuneration, are unchanged. Andrew Barnes, our founder and CEO, says the decision to test the new way of working is “the right thing to do.” He was inspired to conduct the trial by several global productivity reports and our recent internal survey, which asked staff how productivity, innovation and engagement can grow. …..

Related:
A 4-Day Workweek? A Test Run Shows a Surprising Result
Source: Charlotte Graham-McLay, New York Times, July 19, 2018

A New Zealand firm that let its employees work four days a week while being paid for five says the experiment was so successful that it hoped to make the change permanent. The firm, Perpetual Guardian, which manages trusts, wills and estates, found the change actually boosted productivity among its 240 employees, who said they spent more time with their families, exercising, cooking, and working in their gardens…..
Four-day working week trial at New Zealand company so successful its boss wants to make it permanent
Source: Tom Embury-Dennis, The Independent, July 19, 2018

A four-day working week trial at a company in New Zealand was so successful its boss wants to make it permanent. The firm, which deals with wills and trust funds, conducted the eight-week experiment earlier this year. It saw its 240-strong workforce, in 16 offices across the country, retain full pay alongside a three-day weekend. Andrew Barnes, chief executive of Perpetual Guardian, said he had made a recommendation to the board to continue the policy after an analysis revealed a “massive increase” in staff satisfaction with no drop in productivity. The research, Mr Barnes said, was conducted by two independent academics drafted to ensure an objective analysis of the impact on the company and workforce.

Research suggests there’s a case for the 3-hour workday
Source: Chris Weller, Business Insider, September 27, 2017
– The average worker spends most of the eight-hour workday doing many other things beside work, including eating, socialising, or reading the news.
– Psychologists have found the brain can’t focus on tasks for more than a few hours at a time.
– Some companies have started adjusting their schedules to help employees maximise their efficiency.

In Sweden, an Experiment Turns Shorter Workdays Into Bigger Gains
Source: Liz Alderman, New York Times, May 20, 2016

Arturo Perez used to come home frazzled from his job as a caregiver at the Svartedalens nursing home. Eight-hour stretches of tending to residents with senility or Alzheimer’s would leave him sapped with little time to spend with his three children. But life changed when Svartedalens was selected for a Swedish experiment about the future of work. In a bid to improve well-being, employees were switched to a six-hour workday last year with no pay cut. Within a week, Mr. Perez was brimming with energy, and residents said the standard of care was higher. …. The experiment at Svartedalens goes further by mandating a 30-hour week. An audit published in mid-April concluded that the program in its first year had sharply reduced absenteeism, and improved productivity and worker health. ….

The Overworked American

Source: Matt Bruenig, Jacobin, June 4, 2018

We already have too much work in the United States. Why not redistribute it? ….

In light of recent discussions, I thought it might be useful to refresh myself on how different work is in the US and Nordic countries, especially in more recent years after the effects of the Great Recession have started to wear off. In particular, I am interested to know how much the quantity of work differs in these countries. ….