Monday, April 24, 2017
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ALL IN THE FAMILY

Shorter workdays, bad stocks

Swedish law limits work to six hours daily,” says a male reader, 27. “I have worked in our retail family business since graduation. I’m stressed out. As marketing head, I have little free time, but my father and my uncle say I have to work long hours, just the way they did. Our business is going well, but if I keep on getting sick, wouldn’t things get worse?”

My reply:
France, not Sweden, is the country known for a 35-hour workweek, averaging seven hours a day. While employees may be happier (which is debatable), several companies complain that their short working time (compared to other nations) has hurt national competitiveness because of increased business costs.

Powerful French unions have pushed the socialist government to legalize the short workweek, but given the worldwide recession, some candidates for president this May 2017 have promised to bring the workday back to eight hours.

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Sweden does not have such a law. You might have come across an experiment in Goteborg, where the workers in a municipal nursing home decreased their workday from eight to six hours, becoming healthier and more focused.

However, because of the increased costs, the experiment was cut short.

The only companies that appear able to shorten the workweek are tech giants like Google, admired for its work-life balance and stable of perks. Even Amazon has responded to criticism of its workaholic culture by experimenting with a six-hour workday for selected employees, though their pay was cut by 25 percent.

Your family business is in retail. Is cutting the workday financially feasible? You know better than I.

What to do then? Focus on quality. Work smart, not just necessarily long and hard, to perform at the same or an even higher level.

Stay focused. Minimize social media distractions. Even if you are using Facebook or Twitter for marketing, don’t get carried away by other links or browsers.

Have realistic and detailed plans for the short- and long-term. Train employees and learn to delegate, so you won’t be swamped.

I am worried you are frequently ill. Eat right, exercise, see a doctor. Talk openly with your father and your uncle, and reflect on how much work you can realistically deliver without compromising the business and your health and happiness.

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If you have to take a pay cut to shorten your workday, it might be worth it. You decide.

Holding on to bad stocks

“My husband holds on to stocks even if it is obvious that they are disasters,” says a wife who works with him in their business. “He bugs bankers, friends, relatives for tips; he reads books and papers. But we’ve lost a lot of money due to his stubbornness. He blames the losses on others. Why doesn’t he just learn to let go of bad stocks?”

My reply

Stocks are generally as unpredictable as gambling. Your husband deals with such uncertainty by “taking credit for successes but placing blame elsewhere for failures,” to quote Barry Ritholtz, founder of Ritholtz Wealth Management.

“Believing in predictions allows people to overlook their own ignorance, discount the role of randomness and generally overestimate their own skills,” Ritholtz says in Singapore’s Business Times.

When things go wrong, people like your husband refuse to admit to their mistakes at the risk of appearing foolish.

Discuss with your husband the necessity for a stop-loss order. Up to how much are you willing to lose? This is not one-size-fits all, so decide which factors to consider so you don’t lose even more.

Consider other investments, which might be less volatile compared to stocks. The returns might not be as good, but you might not lose as much.

Ask your husband this question, which Ritholtz quoted from a colleague: “Do you want to be right or do you want to make money?”

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TAGS: short working time, short workweek
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