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Democracy

Belgium approves four-day work week—but then takes work-life balance even a step further

Belgium approves four-day work week—but then takes work-life balance even a step further
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More and more countries and companies are experimenting with a four-day work week.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, most people who were able to work from home did. Along with that shift to remote work came a blurrier line between home life and work life—in a society where that line can be quite fuzzy as it is.

Constant connectedness via the internet has contributed to people's difficulties in disconnecting from work. It's far too easy to think about something work-related and shoot off a message to an employee or a co-worker no matter the time of day. In some ways, this ability makes work easier. The problem is that it also makes it easy to not have true time "off."

Everyone needs time off, even people who enjoy their work. And now, in a series of labor reforms, one country is making it easier for everyone to create a healthier work-life balance for themselves.

First, Belgium joins several other nations in approving a four-day work week. Employees can request a six-month period of condensing a 38-hour work week (full time) into four days instead of five. Same pay, same number of hours, just shifted into four days so that every weekend is a three-day weekend. After the six months are up, they can continue with the four-day week or return to five.


"The period of six months was chosen so that an employee would not be stuck for too long in case of a wrong choice," a government representative told Euronews Next.

According to Forbes, if an employer wants to deny an employee's request for a four-day work week, they have to justify the reasoning for their denial in writing.

Another reform designed to enhance work-life balance allows employees to ignore messages from employers outside of work hours without fear of reprisal. This right to disconnect has already been granted to government employees as of January, but the new law will apply in the private sector as well, for all companies with 20 or more employees. Workers can turn off their work phones during nonworking hours and cannot be reprimanded for not responding to work communications outside of work hours.

"The boundary between work and private life is becoming increasingly porous," Belgian labor minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne said. "These incessant demands can harm the physical and mental health of the worker."

The reforms also include provisions for insurance for gig workers, such as Uber drivers and take-out delivery persons, as well as clarifying what counts as self-employment.

Other countries have been experimenting with and implementing shortened work weeks with success. Iceland spent 2015-2019 trying out a 35- to 36-hour work week without any drop in pay and found that worker well-being soared while productivity remained steady or in some case increased. Now some 86% of the population works shorter hours or are gaining the right to work shorter hours. Scotland, Spain and Japan are also trialing abbreviated work weeks, and so are many large companies and organizations.

Here in the U.S., California congressman Mark Takano has introduced legislation that would change the full-time work week from 40 hours to 32 hours, citing the impact of and learnings from the pandemic as an opportunity to create a "new normal."

"I care about making capitalism sustainable and more humane — and less low road and less cutthroat," Takano told Business Insider. He said that the huge number of deaths during the pandemic has been traumatizing and has made people reevaluate their relationships with their jobs.

"This much stronger connection to human mortality has made people value their time," Takano said. "I think there was a Great Realization among a lot of Americans — how hard they're working and that they wanted to move on from the jobs that they were working at. So a four-day work week is something that connects a lot of Americans."

The legislation has yet to see a vote, but the idea is popular among Americans. In a survey from financial firm Jefferies, 80% of respondents supported the idea of a four-day work week, while only 3% were actively opposed to the idea. Another survey of 4,000 workers conducted by Good Hire found that 83% of respondents would prefer a four-day work week.

Considering that the experiments with four-day work weeks have found increased productivity and employee well-being, perhaps the biggest hill to get over with the idea is simply the idea itself. Change is hard and can be scary. But there's nothing magical about five 8-hour days versus four 10-hour days. And we're even finding that there's nothing magical about 40 hours a week versus 32 hours a week. More isn't always better, and if people get the time that they need to be healthy and happy, they're more likely to put more energy into their work, thereby being more productive with the time spent on the job.

Of course, not all industries or organizations can make it work, but for those who can, it's definitely worth a shot. In the meantime, let's keep watching Belgium and the other countries implementing shorter work weeks to see what we can learn from their experiences.

Pop Culture

Here’s a paycheck for a McDonald’s worker. And here's my jaw dropping to the floor.

So we've all heard the numbers, but what does that mean in reality? Here's one year's wages — yes, *full-time* wages. Woo.

Making a little over 10,000 for a yearly salary.


I've written tons of things about minimum wage, backed up by fact-checkers and economists and scholarly studies. All of them point to raising the minimum wage as a solution to lifting people out of poverty and getting folks off of public assistance. It's slowly happening, and there's much more to be done.

But when it comes right down to it, where the rubber meets the road is what it means for everyday workers who have to live with those wages. I honestly don't know how they do it.


Ask yourself: Could I live on this small of a full-time paycheck? I know what my answer is.

(And note that the minimum wage in many parts of the county is STILL $7.25, so it would be even less than this).

paychecks, McDonalds, corporate power, broken system

One year of work at McDonalds grossed this worker $13,811.18.

assets.rebelmouse.io

This story was written by Brandon Weber and was originally appeared on 02.26.15

Bill Gates in conversation with The Times of India

Bill Gates sure is strict on how his children use the very technology he helped bring to the masses.

In a recent interview with the Mirror, the tech mogul said his children were not allowed to own their own cellphone until the age of 14. "We often set a time after which there is no screen time, and in their case that helps them get to sleep at a reasonable hour," he said. Gates added that the children are not allowed to have cellphones at the table, but are allowed to use them for homework or studying.


The Gates children, now 20, 17 and 14, are all above the minimum age requirement to own a phone, but they are still banned from having any Apple products in the house—thanks to Gates' longtime rivalry with Apple founder Steve Jobs.

smartphones, families, responsible parenting, social media

Bill Gates tasting recycled water.

Image from media.giphy.com.

While the parenting choice may seem harsh, the Gates may be onto something with delaying childhood smartphone ownership. According to the 2016 "Kids & Tech: The Evolution of Today's Digital Natives"report, the average age that a child gets their first smartphone is now 10.3 years.

"I think that age is going to trend even younger, because parents are getting tired of handing their smartphones to their kids," Stacy DeBroff, chief executive of Influence Central, told The New York Times.

James P. Steyer, chief executive of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization that reviews content and products for families, additionally told the Times that he too has one strict rule for his children when it comes to cellphones: They get one when they start high school and only when they've proven they have restraint. "No two kids are the same, and there's no magic number," he said. "A kid's age is not as important as his or her own responsibility or maturity level."

PBS Parents also provided a list of questions parents should answer before giving their child their first phone. Check out the entire list below:

  • How independent are your kids?
  • Do your children "need" to be in touch for safety reasons—or social ones?
  • How responsible are they?
  • Can they get behind the concept of limits for minutes talked and apps downloaded?
  • Can they be trusted not to text during class, disturb others with their conversations, and to use the text, photo, and video functions responsibly (and not to embarrass or harass others)?
  • Do they really need a smartphone that is also their music device, a portable movie and game player, and portal to the internet?
  • Do they need something that gives their location information to their friends—and maybe some strangers, too—as some of the new apps allow?
  • And do you want to add all the expenses of new data plans? (Try keeping your temper when they announce that their new smartphone got dropped in the toilet...)


This article originally appeared on 05.01.17

Democracy

This Map Reveals The True Value Of $100 In Each State

Your purchasing power can swing by 30% from state to state.

Image by Tax Foundation.

Map represents the value of 100 dollars.


As the cost of living in large cities continues to rise, more and more people are realizing that the value of a dollar in the United States is a very relative concept. For decades, cost of living indices have sought to address and benchmark the inconsistencies in what money will buy, but they are often so specific as to prevent a holistic picture or the ability to "browse" the data based on geographic location.

The Tax Foundation addressed many of these shortcomings using the most recent (2015) Bureau of Economic Analysis data to provide a familiar map of the United States overlaid with the relative value of what $100 is "worth" in each state. Granted, going state-by-state still introduces a fair amount of "smoothing" into the process — $100 will go farther in Los Angeles than in Fresno, for instance — but it does provide insight into where the value lies.


The map may not subvert one's intuitive assumptions, but it nonetheless quantities and presents the cost of living by geography in a brilliantly simple way. For instance, if you're looking for a beach lifestyle but don't want to pay California prices, try Florida, which is about as close to "average" — in terms of purchasing power, anyway — as any state in the Union. If you happen to find yourself in a "Brewster's Millions"-type situation, head to Hawaii, D.C., or New York. You'll burn through your money in no time.

income, money, economics, national average

The Relative Value of $100 in a state.

Image by Tax Foundation.

If you're quite fond of your cash and would prefer to keep it, get to Mississippi, which boasts a 16.1% premium on your cash from the national average.

The Tax Foundation notes that if you're using this map for a practical purpose, bear in mind that incomes also tend to rise in similar fashion, so one could safely assume that wages in these states are roughly inverse to the purchasing power $100 represents.


This article originally appeared on 08.17.17

What dog is best for you?


PawsLikeMe might know you better than you know yourself.

Hello from the other siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiide!!! I'm a dog and I love youuuuuuuu!!!

Because PawsLikeMe knows about your dreams.

Your DOG dreams, that is.

How? A dog-human personality quiz!

A sophisticated one, too! From their website:

"The personality assessment is based on 4 core personality traits that influence the human-canine bond; energy, focus, confidence, and independence."

It also takes into account environmental factors and other special circumstances as well.

It's not uncommon for dogs that are adopted to be returned because they just aren't compatible with their owner's life.



PawsLikeMe aims to stop dog-owner mismatch by playing dog matchmaker! Its goal is to help people find the right dog for them.

Need a dog that's friendly with kids but loves learning tricks and is also house-trained? DONE. Have other specific requirements? DONE!

Ya got options.

When you go on the website, you can opt to just answer the four most important questions in a dog owner's life:

1. What's your energy level?

2. What kind of parties do you like?

3. What kind of dog personality do you want?

4. What is your personality like?

After those four questions, you can begin searching for a doggie match.

Or you can opt for the full questionnaire (you should) ... and basically feel very, VERY understood.

I took the full PawsLikeMe quiz, and when I saw the results I was kindof taken aback:


PawsLikeMe GETS ME!

Then I was the whisked away to dogs who are just ready to love me.

Listen. My apartment in NYC doesn't allow dogs. But if it did? I'd be 91% ready to adopt Carli. She's perfect, and I love her. CUE ADELE and her songs of lost opportunities to love!

With all the 80 gajillion personality quizzes out there in the world, this one is hands down THE BEST.

Take it for yourself! You won't regret it.


This article originally appeared on 11.06.15


New baby and a happy dad.


When San Francisco photographer Lisa Robinson was about to have her second child, she was both excited and nervous.

Sure, those are the feelings most moms-to-be experience before giving birth, but Lisa's nerves were tied to something different.

She and her husband already had a 9-year-old son but desperately wanted another baby. They spent years trying to get pregnant again, but after countless failed attempts and two miscarriages, they decided to stop trying.


Of course, that's when Lisa ended up becoming pregnant with her daughter, Anora. Since it was such a miraculous pregnancy, Lisa wanted to do something special to commemorate her daughter's birth.

So she turned to her craft — photography — as a way to both commemorate the special day, and keep herself calm and focused throughout the birthing process.

Normally, Lisa takes portraits and does wedding photography, so she knew the logistics of being her own birth photographer would be a somewhat precarious new adventure — to say the least.

pregnancy, hospital, giving birth, POV

She initially suggested the idea to her husband Alec as a joke.

Photo by Lisa Robinson/Lisa Robinson Photography.

"After some thought," she says, "I figured I would try it out and that it could capture some amazing memories for us and our daughter."

In the end, she says, Alec was supportive and thought it would be great if she could pull it off. Her doctors and nurses were all for Lisa taking pictures, too, especially because it really seemed to help her manage the pain and stress.

In the hospital, she realized it was a lot harder to hold her camera steady than she initially thought it would be.

tocodynamometer, labor, selfies

She had labor shakes but would periodically take pictures between contractions.

Photo by Lisa Robinson/Lisa Robinson Photography.

"Eventually when it was time to push and I was able to take the photos as I was pushing, I focused on my daughter and my husband and not so much the camera," she says.

"I didn't know if I was in focus or capturing everything but it was amazing to do.”

The shots she ended up getting speak for themselves:

nurse, strangers, medical care,

Warm and encouraging smiles from the nurse.

Photo by Lisa Robinson/Lisa Robinson Photography.

experiment, images, capture, document, record

Newborn Anora's first experience with breastfeeding.

Photo by Lisa Robinson/Lisa Robinson Photography.

"Everybody was supportive and kind of surprised that I was able to capture things throughout. I even remember laughing along with them at one point as I was pushing," Lisa recalled.

In the end, Lisa was so glad she went through with her experiment. She got incredible pictures — and it actually did make her labor easier.

Would she recommend every mom-to-be document their birth in this way? Absolutely not. What works for one person may not work at all for another.

However, if you do have a hobby that relaxes you, figuring out how to incorporate it into one of the most stressful moments in your life is a pretty good way to keep yourself calm and focused.

Expecting and love the idea of documenting your own birthing process?

Take some advice from Lisa: "Don't put pressure on yourself to get 'the shot'" she says, "and enjoy the moment as much as you can.”

Lisa's mom took this last one.

grandma, hobby, birthing process

Mom and daughter earned the rest.

Photo via Lisa Robinson/Lisa Robinson Photography.

This article originally appeared on 06.30.16