Germany’s largest labor union just secured for its 900,000 workers in the metals and electrical industries a 28-hour work week – down significantly from the previous 35. Workers who work 28 hours a week will be paid somewhat less than those who work 35. Nevertheless, the deal is said to reflect the new mindset among younger laborers. More than their predecessors, their interest is in securing a good work-life balance including, to take the most obvious example, time off for caregiving, whether of young children or elderly relatives.
While German unions are unusually strong and well-positioned, certainly in comparison with their now enfeebled American counterparts, abbreviated workweeks are a trend whose time has come, not only in Germany but elsewhere in the world as well. For reasons that range from demographics to economics to robotics, future workers will be on the job fewer hours than past and even present workers.
The implications of this change are enormous. They will affect countless millions in countless ways we have not yet even begun carefully to contemplate. What, for example, does the future look like for America’s two to three million truckers? Because of self-driving trucks, in a few years they will have less work, and in a few decades, they will have nearly no work.
To the general trend of less work for more people there will be some exceptions – leadership is one. The dark and dirty secret of leadership is that the exercise of it is, typically, enormously demanding. Consuming even. Devouring of time and energy and physical and psychological resources. It’s why most leaders’ personal and professional coffers are left largely depleted of anything available to anyone else.
Let me put it this way. The likelihood that a workplace leader will emerge from among the hundreds of thousands of Germans who permanently avail themselves of the opportunity to work only 28 hours a week is slim.