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The Workday That Wouldn't Die

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Duplicate and distribute these activities. Students may work independently or cooperatively.

Worth Your Time
Many Americans find themselves devoting long hours to their jobs. For some, it is a way to make more money. For others, it is a way of life. What is it that makes some people willing to dedicate the majority of their time to work?

Based on the film, make a list of reasons why some people work longer than usual hours. You might want to look particularly at the stories of the Flickerbox employees (Segment 1), and the schoolteacher Jerie Rhode (Segment 11). What rewards do they find in their work?

Next, make a list of reasons why people might want to cut back on their hours. Base your ideas on the stories of Tim Perry and the 30/40 system (Segment 4),and the job sharing story (Segment 6).

Now take a personal inventory of your values and career goals. How many hours a day would you be willing to work at your chosen career? What, if anything, would you give up to do this? What would you not be willing to give up?

Survey your parents or other adults you know and ask them their opinions on some of these issues.

Have a class discussion about the information you've gathered. Try to answer this basic question: What makes long hours worth it? Have classmates share their opinions and ideas. Compare student's opinions with those of the adults they surveyed.

Have it your way
In Segment 10, you heard the story of Dave Kern and the Alcoa factory in which workers act as their own managers. Do you think this type of factory management is a good idea? Think about what might be involved in an arrangement like the one at Alcoa.

List what the employees at Alcoa are now responsible for. (Scheduling, keeping track of vacation time, and so on)

Research some companies that have given these kinds of responsibilities to workers. Find out how well these arrangements work.

Now imagine you are an employee trying to convince your management to let the workers run the day-to-day operations of the business. List your points. Why would it be a good idea for the workers to supervise themselves? How would it be good for the business? What exactly would you yourself be responsible for?

Consider other obstacles: What if some workers don't want this level of responsibility? How might you deal with their reluctance?

Write a persuasive proposal arguing for an arrangement in which the workers have greater control over their jobs. Present your ideas to the class, and have a question and answer session. You may want to extend the activity by thinking about and discussing the following questions:

How would you compare the role of employees at Alcoa with the role of teachers and students at your school?

Is your school a place where employees have a say in the same types of things as employees at Alcoa do? How much say do students have?

Could a plan like the one used at Alcoa work in an educational setting like your school? Why or why not?

How Entrepreneurial Can you Be?
Today's fast-paced economy is creating thousands of overworked people. Some entrepreneurs see this development not as a problem but as an opportunity to create a profitable service targeting these employees. Mylackey.com is an example of a business catering to very busy people. How might you ride this wave of opportunity to wealth and success?

First, think about what kinds of services might be useful to people who work long hours and find themselves without time for the tasks of everyday life. Run a Web search and do other research to see whether any firms in your area offer these services. If they do, think of how you could beat them at their game.

Survey some overworked people you know to see what kinds of services they think might be useful to them.

Create a business proposal for your new service or company. Keep these questions in mind: Why is this a good idea? Who are you marketing to? How will you make your operation highly efficient? How will you let people know what you offer?

Present your proposal to the class. Be sure to explain why your idea will be a great new service for today's busy professionals. Make graphic displays of how your business would work and how it would grow. Display these in the classroom.

The Eight-Hour Workday
In Segment 7, Will Durst presents some highlights in the history of the eight-hour workday. The story of how the 8-hour day became a national standard is long and complicated, but full of interesting events. Do some research on this topic, using the information in the video as a starting point.

Find information on the development of the 8-hour workday in the United States over the last 150 years. You may want to use the library or the Internet. Look for major events, legislation, and periods of activism.

Make a list of the events you've read about that impacted the length of the workday. Write a one- or two-sentence description of eachone.

Interview people you know from different generations. Ask: What is/was your typical workday? Did any events happen during your lifetime that changed the length of the workday? What were they and what were their effects?

  Use the information you've gathered to create a time line of the history of the 8-hour workday. You could splice together the data you've found with the personal stories you've gathered to tell the story of the workday through the graphic you create.