Business giant Opticon Enterprises, Inc., recently made history by granting a female employee a zero-hour workweek.
“We are committed to finding solutions for new mothers to make women’s lives easier at our company,” says CEO Steve Guy. “That’s why as of today, anytime an employee asks about a flexible schedule or telecommuting, we will grant them a zero-hour workweek, no questions asked.”
The solution came down after the employee brought up the success of Sweden’s six-hour workday during a full staff meeting. The employee had suggested that Resulticon’s 53-hour workweek was not productive, pointing to studies showing that long working hours result in reduced productivity and increased health risks, not to mention the strain on family life and the high costs of childcare.
“The response to my concern was unprecedented,” says 36-year-old Susan Larch, the former project manager whose hours were immediately cut down to zero. Larch said she had expected her managers to scoff at her, or, best-case scenario, cut the company workweek by a handful of hours. “The fact that they took this a huge step further really shows a willingness to help employees spend more time at home,” says Larch, while nursing her three-month-old daughter. “I couldn’t be more surprised.”
Documents show that Larch had been at Opticon for six years, making an annual salary of $65,641 for a 53-hour workweek. She has been working her newly reduced schedule now for five weeks, making an annual salary of approximately $0.00.
“Of course it’s going to be an adjustment,” says Larch. “There’s less time for me to get my work done, but there’s also less work for me to do since I have no responsibilities or assignments.” As of press time, Larch was spending most of her work week figuring out if she would pay for COBRA, get health insurance through Obamacare, or ask her husband to quit being a musician and go back to the corporate job he hated so they could get that insurance. “The best part of this situation is that there are no clear answers, or even good ones.”
“Change is always hard,” says Larch, adding, “…and not just for me.” Larch notes that a part-time employee had recently been tasked with all of Larch’s former work, and was apparently making half her former rate. “That’s got to be hard for her, but what’s great about the modern day workplace is that practices can be modified to suit the individuals needs over some one-size-fits-all cookie cutter model,” says Larch.
When asked what her plans were, Larch said she just wanted time to enjoy her new job for a while. “I had thought that the zero-hour workweek was a thing of the past, kind of relic of 2008,” she says. She described her surprise at finding out that employers may be more willing than ever to grant it to anyone who asks.
“I can’t believe how much more rested and ready to work I feel,” she says. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go scream.”