Women and the 32-Hour Workweek

Our video team shot this short documentary on Treehouse, a tech start-up with a very non-traditional outlook on the workweek:

One reader raises an interesting point:

While I appreciate the overall message and goal that the CEO is trying to create with this schedule, I would have loved to have heard more from women working at Treehouse. Women in tech are already an underrepresented minority, and this sort of scheduling will have a far greater effect on their lives because (although this is a big generalization that I’m sure I'll get burned for in the comments section), women are often responsible for the majority of childcare, cooking, and cleaning in the home.

Instead, in the video, we have two prominently positioned males within the company who primarily discuss how such scheduling allows them more time to relax and be creative, with only a brief acknowledgement that the truncated work hours “likely help my wife.”

This ultimately undermines the case that the CEO is trying to make, making the truncated workweek similar to the free lunches and shuttles that are provided by other tech companies (since such services are often provided to help employees “relax” and take away the hassles of inconveniences like eating and commuting). A perspective from a woman balancing a career at Treehouse and raising her family would have likely strengthened the case for shorter work hours.

There’s some research to back up her argument: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2014 American Time Use Survey, women on average spent double the amount of time men did on “food and drink preparation” and “interior cleaning.” Women also, on average, spent more time caring for others members of the household:

NBC's Today Show also did a video segment on Treehouse. Female Treehouse employee—and mother—Mary McPherson makes a cameo around the 1:05 mark. Another female Treehouse employee, Nancy King, shared her experience with The Washington Post:

“My kids are grown, so I feel a little guilty, like I don’t deserve the time off,” said Nancy King, head of recruiting. “And I don’t have any hobbies, because coming off a grueling work environment, I didn’t have time for any for so long.”

How would you spend your extra hours off? In a post on Medium, Atlantic reader Nicole Dieker asks for more perspectives:

I have some friends who work at Treehouse, and who talk about how much they love working there. These friends are women, but the Atlantic video only shares men’s responses to Treehouse’s 32-hour workweek. It would have been nice to hear a perspective from a woman and/or a mother as well.

What would you do with a 32-hour workweek? Would you spend more time with family? Volunteer? Go hiking, take up an instrument, host a weekly tabletop game night, start writing your novel, or finally take the time to watch Orange Is the New Black (which you’ve still never seen)? Do you think it would change your life dramatically, or do you think it would be pretty much the same life, with a little less work in it?

Want to answer those questions? Or just have general thoughts on a four-day workweek? Drop us a line.