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The Seven-Day Weekend: Changing the Way Work Works – Ricardo Semler

10th July 2022
the seven-day weekend book cover

Introduction

The Seven-Day Weekend is a combination of political manifesto, a business case history, and an anthropological study. The author says it is also a road map to personal and business success. This book explains the philosophies and practices that make Semco one of the world’s most unusual workplaces. I would like to see if seven-day weekend means we do not need to work at all.



Authors

Ricardo Semler is the CEO and majority owner of Semco Partners in Brazil. He is also Professor of Leadership at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and Visiting Scholar at Harvard Law School.



Contents

The Seven-Day Weekend contains 9 chapters.

These chapters are 1) Any Day, 2) Sunday, 3) Monday, 4) Tuesday, 5) Wednesday, 6) Thursday, 7) Friday, 8) Saturday, and 9) Every Day.



Review

The seven-day weekend approach is an alternative that bridges the gap between the airy theories of workplace democracy and the nitty-gritty practice of running a profitable business. However, it is not about abolishing work. The author states clearly in the book that seven-day weekend is equal to seven-day workweek, but with an emphasis on workers’ welfare.

He advocates giving up control to cope with changes that are transforming the way we live and work. The employers should set employees free to question, to analyse, to investigate and the company must be flexible enough to listen to the answers. Let employees speak their mind or make their demands and never be afraid of them as the result is always vastly superior to the ostrich approach of looking for subtle ways of keeping their demands subdued.

Humans thrive on being productive, on working toward goals, on providing for their families, on building a future. Just don’t ask them to do it all the time and without the freedom to say “Now, I need time for me”. In short, there should be a balance between work, leisure, and idleness.

The best way to ensure long-term job satisfaction is to exhaust talent reservoir or answer the calling because no one works for money alone. Nonetheless, talent, or the obsession that comes with a particular talent, is not the same as doing something exceptional. People can do something exceptional without utilising their talent. Thus, he opines that it is unfair to expect all employees to feel passionate about their work.

Elements of job satisfaction also include logistics and stress. When employees have some leverage over the logistics of their job, their satisfaction improves. Stress results from difference between expectation and reality. Stress-free workplace that is most productive is where workers respect each other’s differences.

His company implemented a lot of commonplace practices in this age such as flexible work schedules and impermanent offices in the mid-1980s. He also predicted working away from office will be an inevitable part long time ago. Nonetheless, he recognised that traditional offices will never disappear completely as there will still be need for offices. Besides that, he successfully predicted General Electric’s decline. I would say that he is quite a visionary.

Successful leadership is not dictatorship. By loosening up and rejecting the military model, productivity will be unleashed. Success doesn’t come from one man alone; it stems from collective decisions that your colleagues and employees heartily support. Power and position do not guarantee infallibility and best thinking. Democracy, though prone to dissent, allows intuition of the majority to override the power of the one.

Information in any organisation should be information on demand. We should not be afraid of sharing information freely. By having this openness, employees will be able to act in their and the organisation’s best interest. Nonetheless, precise facts and numbers are only helpful if they are used to enhance decision-making, not as the basis for it.

The author is not entirely sure of the raison d’être of Semco, but it has to do with collective gratification and a reason to live and work. He believes that if an organisation does not provide the opportunity for success, it is their fault when people falter. Semco’s most precious asset is the wisdom of its workforce, and its success grows out of employees’ success.

Semco does not define the businesses that it is in. It is because the author thinks that once you say what business you’re in, you create boundaries for your employees, you restrict their thinking and give them a reason to ignore new opportunities.

For him, four vital business concepts are intuition, luck, mistakes, and serendipity. He promotes self-management as he believes this leads to true situational leadership which is flexible, effective, and evolutionary. We need to expect dissent with this management style and resist the urge to suppress it in order to find better solutions.

His company is Semco Partners but I could not find much information regarding this company in Brazil. Most information can only be gleaned from this book. He mentioned a number of employees and business partners in the book to illustrate his points.

This book explores the ways of making work more fun and of finding a balance between work and private passions. So we still need to work, but on our own terms. We could choose the hours to work and do not have to feel guilty to take a break or take care of our family when needed or even to pursue our passions. In my opinion, this is indeed a better work arrangement.



Quotes

  1. Freedom is an empty work without “free time”.
  2. By encouraging uniformity, I lose productivity.
  3. You can admire people, even if you don’t like them.
  4. By definition, no collector can ever be happy. There will always be a piece, a unit, a set that can’t be had.
  5. If I stay with what I know, I won’t know what I don’t know.


Rating

3 out of 3 stars



Interested in The Seven-Day Weekend?

You may get the book from through the links below*.

Get the print book from Kinokuniya Malaysia here

*Disclosure: The above link is an affiliate link. Thus, I may earn a small commission when you purchase the book through these links.

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