OK, I'm a little late with this one from the April Issue of Fast Company. Good thing for me that like a fine wine, the story keeps getting better as long as gas prices continue to climb...
The big idea? David Roberts opines in his "All In A Day's Work" column that Americans should work less as a means to save energy, and at the end of the day, be almost as productive, once you factor in waste.
"The United States leads the world in two categories: work and waste. American employees put in more hours and take fewer vacations than just about anyone else in the industrialized world, and our individual ecological "footprints" are much larger.
Coincidence? I think not. The way we work drives our habits of consumption and waste. The more we work, the more we drive, the more energy we burn, the more styrofoam to-go containers we use. At the end of the day, we're so tired, we devour more takeout and TV, often falling asleep in front of the latter. If we want to accelerate the recent trend of reducing waste, it may be time to consider the radical step of, well, relaxing more, consuming less, and living fuller lives. May the Wall Street Journal editorial board strike me down.
Working less is a radical notion today, but it hasn't always been. Between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries, work hours declined steadily in the industrialized world. In 1956, then-vice president Richard Nixon said that a four-day workweek was "not too far distant." But men today report working 100 more hours a year than in 1976. For women, it's 200-plus hours. All these extra hours have helped more than double the productivity of the American worker in the past half-century -- but they have also increased our energy consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions."
I don't want to go off on a rant here, but isn't doubling productivity while figuring out an acceptable work/life balance the American way? Politics aside, I don't want to be France (which is mentioned as a beacon in the article). I want the backbone of America to be the guy/gal who immigrates here and outworks/outsmarts everyone else, and gives his/her family more than they could have every imagined - based on their effort and performance.
We've got lots of room to improve, in terms of figuring out the consumption of energy in our country, and sure, we've become addicted to oil. But a call for the country to work less? As you might expect from a site with "capitalist" in the title, I'm not having it. Let's let people compete and see what happens. Let's become more green, but let's reward it via the marketplace.
If folks like David trade in their broadband, cable, Ipods and Apple notebooks, I'll start paying attention to the calls to work less. I want to have work/life balance, and I want you to have one too - including the choice to work part-time or not at all. But all the toys and tools of the American lifestyle - they run on energy. Until you put all the toys down, the argument to work and consume less is hollow...
And rather than push for everyone to work less, I'd rather put dramatic rewards in place culturally for those who help us figure out where the new energy sources will come from, and bring them to market.
And make them rich for doing it. Big risk, big return. It's been a staple of America for two centuries, along with choice and free will. Not the call to do less...