How is it that it’s the year two-thousand and twenty-two, we’ve been barely getting by for two years thanks to a global pandemic that has uniquely impacted disabled folks (while also still impacting everyone), and we’re still somehow expected to show up for work for five days — 40 hours! — each week? How is it that we’re here, with all that, and we still only get a measly two days off for a weekend? Like what the hell.
I mean. I know the answer. It’s capitalism.
And it's also companies being unwilling to change because it’s too hard and they’re too focused on their bottom lines or whatever. (Which is also nonsense, since there have been studies that show reduced workweeks actually make people more productive, but capitalism wants our time just as much as it wants our productivity.)
A bit ago, I actually tried to get a 4-day workweek as an accommodation through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) at [redacted, but it’s also no secret where I work]. At the time, our people team told me that it couldn’t be done because of “compliance” and “fairness.” They never elaborated on what exactly they were complying with, but the fairness argument is bunk considering my chronic fatigue isn’t fair by any means, and accommodations are supposed to be about equity not fairness.
I was instead given a choice. One option: to have a half-day each week for refreshing and recharging (lol k, like that’s possible in four hours). With this choice, I would have the same amount of work and pay, but with a half-day off of my choosing each week. The other option: to pursue a 4-day workweek but with 20% reduced pay and what I am 100% certain would end up being the same amount of work (because that’s how being a salaried manager-level employee is). I also couldn't help but assume it would come with fewer options for career growth in the future.
But I digress.
Tech companies like to think they’re super forward-thinking, like they’re doing a Good Capitalism. They talk about their missions, how they’re Making the World a Better Place and You Can Too. They try to recruit with health insurance coverage (which shouldn’t be tied to employment anyway), free snacks, and use-them-or-lose-them stipends when they could just pay you more.
They talk about how their product — the thing you’re building for them day-in and day-out — is going to tangibly change the world (when actually your roadmap is all about building for audiences with money). They paint this beautiful altruistic landscape and it sounds amazing and perfect and like a place you’d rather be.
But then when you take a closer look, you realize it’s not actually a painting at all. It’s the reflection of a scribble that’s actually the reflection of a scribble that’s actually the reflection of a scribble — sort of like if someone were to stand in a hall of mirrors while holding said scribble. Just reflection on reflection on reflection. And it’s been reflected so much, everyone’s lost track of the original and how it’s really just a mediocre scribble.
And ok, I'll be the first to admit that metaphor got away from me.
But basically these tech companies have just been so busy navel-gazing, they’ve mistaken forward-thinking with status quo. Because that’s all they’re really offering: dressed up status quo.
And if someone even suggests that, that it’s just business-as-usual but with a monocle and a top hat? For example, that the monthly stipends advertised as part of compensation when you join are too restrictive and too difficult for some employees to actually use? What happens then? Well, the head of the people team has an angry outburst during an all-company meeting, basically saying people aren’t grateful enough for what they do get.
Companies seem only to be worried about their bottom lines, so I’ll tell you mine: a 4-day (still fully paid) workweek would benefit all of my colleagues, disabled or not. And if there’s a chance they wouldn’t be able to get everything done in that time, then the expectations are unreasonable and they have too much work to do.
We’re human. We’re not born to be capitalist drones. Work doesn’t deserve so much of us. It never has and it never will. If these companies are truly committed to helping their employees lead fulfilling lives, they need to make good on that commitment by actually giving us things that would help us do that.
A 2-day weekend, a few random “refresh” days, and paid time off (that’s often stressful to take because others are still working and we’ll have a pile of stuff we’re late on when we come back) aren’t it. Access to coaching tools isn’t going to solve the burnout we’re all experiencing as a direct result of the 5-day workweek. These are band-aids, if anything, and not even good ones. They’re like the band-aids you find at the bottom of your backpack, partially torn open, a bit dirty, and definitely not sticky anymore.
So, yeah, just give us the 4-day workweek already. 🤷🏻