Carlos Slim says three-day work week should be standard. Could it work?

Carlos Slim, Mexican telecoms tycoon and the world's richest man, says people should work three days a week, but not retire until they are in their seventies. Others, including Google co-founder Larry Page, share Carlos Slim's vision of shorter work weeks, but is it a serious option for companies and workers?

Jorge Adorno/Reuters/File
Mexican businessman Carlos Slim attends the 20th annual meeting of the Circulo de Montevideo Fundation in Luque, Paraguay. Carlos Slim says people should work three days a week, but not retire until they are in their seventies.

A three-day work week may sound idealistic, but the world's richest man thinks it should be the standard.

Carlos Slim is calling for a "radical overhaul" of how people work. People shouldn’t retire when they are 50 or 60 – instead, people should work until they are older, but take more time off during their longer careers, says the Mexican telecoms tycoon, and now the richest man in the world.

“People are going to have to work for more years, until they are 70 or 75, and just work three days a week – perhaps 11 hours a day,” he said at a business conference in Paraguay last week, according to Paraguay.com, as translated by the Financial Times. A three-day work week would allow people to relax more and lead to a healthier and more productive labor force, Slim says. Plus, working beyond your fifties and sixties would benefit people financially, he added.

Slim isn’t the only businessman calling for shorter work weeks. Last month, Google co-founder Larry Page shared his vision for a future where the average person had shorter work weeks and took longer vacations, as the Monitor has reported. Mr. Page said the things that make people happy are housing, security, and opportunity for your children. He also mentioned how Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, is advocating for employers in the United Kingdom to hire two part-time employees rather than one full-time employee. That way, young people can work some hours rather than none at all, Page says.

"Most people like working, but they'd also like more time with their family or to do their own interests," he says.

But if companies were to implement a shorter work week or split a full-time job into two part-time jobs, what would that mean for employers and workers? It could work, but it is complicated. 

People working four days a week tend to be more productive during work and generally spend less time commuting, according to Emory University WorkLife Resource Center. But, working four days a week and more hours each day would mean workers with children could have trouble arranging child care and transportation. Another con is supervision issues. Managers may have to have the same schedule as the employee at some companies, resulting in overtime expenses and creating salary equity issues, according to Emory University.

Some smaller companies already implement a four-day work week. Treehouse, an online education company, has its 70 employees work four days a week with full-time salaries. In a Quartz blog post, CEO Ryan Carson says Treehouse had a yearly revenue growth of 120 percent and has more than 70,000 students paying for the company's services. He claims his company has increased efficiency and boosted morale with a shorter work week. 

Splitting a full-time job into two part-time jobs is tricky. More people are employed and receive some form of income, while having more free time outside their work schedules. But being part-time means corporations don't have to pay for insurance for part-timers. With the Affordable Care Act, employers are opting for more part-time employees to avoid paying for health coverage, although part-time workers can find cheaper health insurance through the ACA and other venues. Meanwhile, US jobs have increased by 288,000 in June but the number of involuntary part-time workers (people who want to be full-time but either cannot find full-time employment or had their hours cut) also went up by 275,000 to 7.5 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

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