Wednesday. 6/11/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Venetia Rainey

This isn’t working

The evidence is mounting that people do not need to be in the office for nine hours a day, five days a week to get their job done. The latest experiment on the issue was in Japan, where Microsoft trialled a four-day work week throughout August. The result? Productivity (sales per number of employees) jumped by a massive 40 per cent and employees took 25 per cent less time off. There were other unexpected benefits for the company too: electricity use dropped by a quarter and printing by nearly two thirds.

Although office workers themselves have long known that a fair portion of the day is spent doing things that aren’t strictly job-related, Microsoft’s findings add legitimacy to a movement that has been growing ever since last year’s landmark trial by Perpetual Guardian. The Auckland-based financial firm found that staff were better at their jobs and enjoyed them more when they were working four days a week (their salary was not cut). Why? Because employees had more time to manage their personal life, letting them focus on their work while in the office.

It’s a controversial subject and not everyone is sold. While Perpetual Guardian made the change permanent within a few months, Microsoft Japan hasn’t committed to anything and is trialling another flexible working model this winter. A UK report earlier this year said it wouldn’t work nationally as different sectors have different needs. Clearly there is no blanket solution but the trend is obvious: the bums-on-seat ethos that has permeated work culture for so long is facing redundancy.

Politics / Canada

Wexit means Wexit

Over the weekend, hundreds of disgruntled Albertans met at a dancehall in Edmonton to discuss “Wexit”: a separation movement that, if Wexiteers have their way, would see the western oil-producing province secede from Canada. Although a sense of alienation is not new in western Canada, the Wexit movement was kickstarted by Justin Trudeau’s re-election as prime minister in October. Despite Trudeau’s support for the Kinder Morgan pipeline extension he remains reviled in Alberta, in part due to his federally imposed carbon taxes. On Monday, Peter Downing, the leader of the movement, applied to turn it into a registered federal political party: Wexit Alberta. It’s unclear what sort of momentum the party will pick up but, combined with the resurgence of the separatist Bloc Québécois in the federal election, Canada is feeling increasingly fractured. Trudeau will be hard-pressed to improve on his support out west during his second term.

Media / The US

Free press

The Salt Lake Tribune has become the first legacy daily newspaper in the US to be granted nonprofit status by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The unprecedented move means that the Pulitzer prize-winning periodical from Utah can seek tax-deductible status and access more philanthropic funding, including donations from readers and the endowment of the Utah Journalism Foundation. The decision was spurred by Paul Huntsman (pictured), who acquired the 148-year-old news outlet in 2016 and was faced with a challenge to bolster the company’s finances.

By turning the Tribune into a nonprofit, Huntsman is giving up his sole ownership; the newspaper will now be governed by a board of directors and all funds will flow directly into the newsroom rather than to shareholders. Is it a one-off or a recipe for success for a struggling industry? The Tribune’s next steps are sure to be newsworthy.

Transport / Singapore

Chain reaction

Segway and e-scooter users will now have to think twice about cruising along the pavements of Singapore: this week the city-state announced an official ban of e-scooters on footpaths. The move comes as an increasing number of users run roughshod over existing standards for the use of such “personal mobility devices” – not to mention the rising number of accidents and fatalities. Those flouting the ban will face fines of up to €1,300 or jail terms of up to three months. While Singapore is upping its efforts to build motor-friendly infrastructure to ensure smooth and efficient transport, we hope that this ban will also encourage Singaporeans to revert back to more traditional modes of commuting or take advantage of the city-state’s extensive public transport.

Society / UK

Flying the flag

Brexit might have been delayed but planning for an afterparty in 2022 continues. The Guardian reports that a creative director, Dean Creamer, has been hired for a “festival of Britain”; planning began when Theresa May was prime minister to showcase the power of an independent UK. The idea is to promote the best of UK arts, culture, design and technology with buy-in from top museums and institutions. It’s not just about Brexit: 2022 is also the year of the Queen’s platinum jubilee and the 100th anniversary of the BBC. Still, it puts cultural institutions – which usually prefer to stay above the political fray so as not to alienate half the country – in an uncomfortable position. We’re all for cultural festivals that display the soft-power chops of a nation. Is it too much to hope that people could unite around a wholesome celebration of the UK and its rich history rather than Brexit itself?

M24 / The Menu

Food Neighbourhoods 159: Edinburgh, Leith

Menswear designer Kestin Hare and his partner Gemma – both Edinburgh locals – take us on a tour of some of the best food and drink spots in the Leith neighbourhood.

Monocle Films / Georgia

Tbilisi’s architectural revival

Rather than erase all evidence of Georgia’s Soviet past, the country’s architectural community is keen to preserve its history and give its once-foreboding buildings another – happier – lease of life.

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