The Seven-Day Weekend: Changing the Way Work Works

Article excerpt

The Seven-Day Weekend: Changing the Way Work Works

by Ricardo Semler

This book is unlike any business book you have ever read, perhaps with the exception of Ricardo Semler's first book, Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World's Most Unusual Workplace, originally published in 1993.

According to Semler:

We have to find a better way for work to work. The seven-day workweek is shaping up as a personal, societal, and business disaster. It robs people of passion and pleasure, destroys family and community stability, and sets up business organizations to ultimately fail once they've burned out their employees and burned through ever more manipulative and oppressive strategies (Semler, 2004: ix)

Background

In 1993, Ricardo Semler, CEO (self-proclaimed chief enzyme officer) of the $212 million Brazilian company Semco, wrote Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World's Most Unusual Workplace. This book, which has since sold 1.1 million copies worldwide, in many ways challenged and at the same time redefined the way in which employee empowerment could be used to change the popular conception of the workplace. Semco consists of a number of units that are referred to as a federation. These include the industrial machinery unit, SemcoBAC; a partnership with Baltimore Air Coil, Cushman & Wakefield Semco; Semco Johnson Controls, ERM, a partnership with Environmental Resources Management; Semco Ventures, which includes Internet and high-tech ventures; SemcoHR, which manages outsourcing of HR activities; and Semco RGIS, an inventory control firm (Semler, 2004: 15).

At Semco workers set their own production quotas and arrive at work anytime between 7:00 A.M. and 9:00 A.M. The company has no organizational chart. Each division sets its own salary structure. all financial information is discussed openly. The company employs no receptionists, secretaries, or personal assistants. No one has a personalized parking spaces or a dress codes. At Semco, the standard policy is to have no policy. Today, Semco employs 3,000 people in three countries working in manufacturing, professional services, and high-tech software. Staff turnover is virtually nonexistent.

The Seven Day Weekend

When I first heard that Ricardo Semler had written a second book I was actually excited. Not in the way someone would be excited about a month long vacation or a job promotion, but because his first book was in so many ways a revolutionary way to look at how organizational culture can change, I could not wait to read the second. The problem was that the book was originally only available in Europe. When the later book finally arrived, I knew that The Seven-day Weekend: Changing the Way Work Works was worth the wait by simply looking at the table of contents. Immediately after the acknowledgements and the forward were the nine chapter titles, each one named for a day of the week, beginning with "Any Day," then moving through each day of the week, and ending with "Every Day."

With the exception of the chapters on Friday and Saturday, Monday is the only chapter in the entire book that actually speaks to the point of reinventing the workweek in terms of setting your own work schedule.

Drop the traditional notions of a workweek and a weekend, and divide the seven days among company time, personal time, and idleness (free time). Rearrange your schedule to work when most other people don't. Arrange a workweek to sleep according to biorhythms rather than a time clock, and enjoy a sunny Monday on the beach after working through a chilly Sunday" (Semler, 2004: 24).

Semler points out that "we no longer grasp the difference between leisure time and being idle" (Semler, 2004: 22. He uses the example of going to the beach. Even at the beach most people are pre-occupied with reading, tanning, looking for shells, walking, swimming, and watching children. Where is the true idleness? just doing absolutely NOTHING! …

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