Are our working hours broken?

25 Apr 2016 3-minute read

At the moment in Belgium there is a debate whether or not the government should reform the working hours of the employees.
Currently we either have a 38 hour week or a 40 hour week, depending on your contract with your employer.
Yet, in some business sectors, for example fruit picking, people need to work more during a week in one period and less in another. This is the base for rethinking this structure into one where we look at annual hours instead of weekly.
There is however a minimum and maximum cap on the amount of hours they are allowed to work.

Now, giving the situation and hearing how others tend to work I’ve been thinking about the whole working structure.
The current way of working is usually 8 hours a day. Some of us have “fluid” hours, meaning we can start/end our work in a certain range. For example, you can start at 7 or at 10 as long as you reach the hours mentioned in the contract.

It is often said that a 9 to 5 type of job just doesn’t exist anymore, at least not in the digital sectors. But when you think about it most still do this but in a different format. Due to the “fluid” hours it isn’t that clear anymore since one works from 7 to 4 with a one hour break. Which still is a 9 to 5 just slightly modified. And this goes for many people that I know.
Now, do notice that I mention the 8 hours a day meaning here and not so much the start and end hours.

The “fluid” system does fix one crucial problem. We can decide to work during our most productive moment. From people who like to work early to people who like to work late.
It, however, does not take in to account the other major problem. A lot of people that I talk to can not focus for 8 hours straight. Even with the lunchbreak in between people tend to lose their concentration during a set periode during the day.

But this is not a problem that is easy to fix. We might give people the ability to work the hours that they want, for example 7 to 12 and 3 to 6. But this causes other problems such as meeting moments and commute times.
Imagine you have to ride 100 kilometers to reach your work. What would you do in the 12 to 3 window? What is there to do? Driving back and forth is a bad option, both for your own health as well as for the environment.

Working from home would prove a partial solution to this problem. And I say partial because some people do not like or are unable to work from home. And it still does not fix the meeting issue, even though remote meetings are an option. Besides that there is also the social aspect that loses it’s hold on people that work a lot from home.

I’m afraid there is no “real” solution to this problem but I do think this should be open for discussion. Not just by the government but also by the employees and employers. I know of at least one company that let’s their employers free to work when they want given the fact that they reach their hours and deadlines. As far as I know this works pretty well.