In the debate about performance culture, the solution is always: We all have to work more. What people are actually looking for is often overlooked when they advocate a 4-day week. But if we all try a little harder, part of the answer to the search in the future may lie in the workplace.

We Germans have become lazy, no longer willing to perform and are therefore wasting our prosperity. These are roughly the core statements in the debate on performance culture.

A 4-day week, with the same salary. Work-life balance. Home office. The image is created as if the employees are not fed up. It is a one-sided discussion of a complex topic from which I only find complaints and demands. Judgments are made without asking. The solution is always: We all have to work more.

Lunia Hara is a jury member for the “Constructive World Award” 2024. The “Constructive World Award” was launched online by FOCUS in 2023. The award is intended to honor the social and journalistic work of those who constructively think and move our world forward. The winners of the “Constructive World Awards” will be announced at a celebratory event on June 4th in Berlin. In a series of guest contributions, the jury members present their perspectives and ideas for solving social problems.

This article is not a plea for a 4-day week, but rather an attempt to clarify why a seemingly large number of people in some industries refuse to work according to the old understanding of performance. Are the helicopter parents really the only ones to blame who have “spoiled” and “softened” their children?

70 years ago, the social psychologist Abraham Maslow presented his hierarchy of human needs, the hierarchy of needs. The pyramid is now viewed critically because it does not take individual characteristics into account. I’ll try anyway, the theory is justified, even if there are exceptions. Where are we in Germany on this pyramid today?

Depending on various social and economic factors, we find ourselves at different levels. However, basic needs such as food, safety and shelter are largely met for the majority of the population in Germany. This circumstance means that many people tend to focus on higher needs such as social belonging, recognition and self-realization.

There is prosperity, although not across the board for everyone. But apparently for a significant part of the population, which affects the behavior of employees in certain industries. Because more and more people are looking for meaning and striving for self-realization.

Who cares about how we maintain prosperity when a large portion of society is in self-actualization mode?

Prosperity enables work-life balance. This gives people the capacity to think about things other than just work.

Maybe a change of perspective will help: people who advocate a 4-day week are not lazy. You have a desire to do other things away from work. They want to give their life more meaning. Or simply not putting off what they understand as life. Implementing YOLO (You Only Live Once) in the workplace.

The call for more work does not increase motivation, but rather divides people.

Instead of complaining, companies should show more empathy. Then they would realize that people are not lazy, but simply have other priorities besides their work. Recognizing that employees have long since escaped their control and that other incentives are needed to motivate them would make productive cooperation in the world of work much easier for employers.

Incentives that cannot be compensated for in money alone: ​​e.g. giving the company and work more meaning, living social responsibility, enabling participation, allowing innovation and recognizing individual expertise. If we try a little harder, part of the answer to what people are looking for can still be in the workplace.