In Carlos Slim’s perfect world, Wednesday would be the new Friday.
The Mexican billionaire said in a recent interview with Bloomberg that three-day work weeks could – and should – be the future of labor.
Slim’s vision for the ideal employee career path involves shorter hours but longer tenure. Instead of asking people to work 40-50 hours a week until they’re 65, they could work fewer than 30 hours a week until they’re 75.
“I think the companies that can take this on are those in which productivity has led to excess personnel,” Slim said. “It’s a great change to exchange fewer days of work for more years until retirement.”
The change would allow senior employees, who generally understand their industry better than junior employees, to stay with the company longer and better balance their daily lives with their careers. Slim says he began offering the system in his telecommunications company, Telemex, about two years ago. To date, 40% of people have adopted it.
Productivity experts have been praising shorter workweeks for years. Research finds people tend to be happier, more focused, and more productive when extra time is tacked onto their weekends. Only recently, however, have companies started to take those benefits seriously.
Ryan Carson, CEO of the technology education company Treehouse, has seen his employees become happier and more productive since he implemented the 32-hour work week in 2006. Core to Carson’s leadership philosophy is the belief that forcing people to work 40-hour weeks is nearly inhumane, he told the Atlantic last year.
“It’s not about more family time, or more play time, or less work time – it’s about living a more balanced total life,” he said. “We basically take ridiculously good care of people because we think it’s the right thing to do.”
The company isn’t struggling to make ends meet, either. Its yearly revenue is in the millions, and according to Carson, people love coming to work each day.
Carlos Slim is a shrewd businessman, too, so his radical weekend policy also helps his company.
“Instead of cutting personnel, you can enter a scheme like this, where you can have more people, maybe pay more salaries, but you’re avoiding having to pay when workers retire early,” Slim says, referring to the cost of replacing experienced workers with greener ones and paying for pensions.
Most people say 60-65 is the perfect age for retirement, since many want to take full advantage of their later years. They view leisure as something to look forward to. Slim’s policy offers a different work-life balance. By taking that backloaded chunk of time and spreading it across more years, he gives people the chance to keep working without getting tired out.
So while retiring at 75 may seem extreme, if people are passionate about their work at 35 they’ll probably still enjoy it at 55 and 75. The true value of a later retirement could be sparing people the choice between continuing to work full-time and wasting away as they wait for fish to bite.