The length of workday has been a hot topic in Brazil lately and I thought contrasting Brazil’s proposal (having a 12-hour workday) with what has been happening in Sweden (experiments to evaluate the effectiveness of a 6-hour workday).
This is a lesson better suited to adults, but if you have a mixed group (adults and adolescents) you can get the younger students to compare workdays with how long their school days are.
The text has been shortened a little and you can use the material with B1+ students. If you are working with intermediate students, do remember to use the close captions available in the video – they are generally pretty accurate.
[Some readers have asked for PowerPoint slides for the lessons and this is my first attempt at making it available. Now, these have been converted from the programme I use for my lessons (ActiveInspire) and I’m aware that they are editable. At the moment, however, that’s the best I can do. You can download the slides here.]
Start by putting students in pairs and getting them to discuss these questions. In order to give them additional context you can briefly talk about how long the work day for a teacher typically is.
- How long is your typical workday?
- Do you sometimes work on weekends?
- Do you get paid extra if you work overtime?
After a few minutes, collect feedback from students. It’s likely that they are going to say they work a lot.
Show students the following image, which was taken from here.
Ask students if they have read anything about this in Brazilian newspapers and then, in pairs, ask students to discuss this question.
- Do you think this is a good idea? Why or why not?
Get some feedback from students and then tell them they are going to look at the headline of an American magazine. Tell students not to read the text yet, but to compare their initial reaction to the headlines.
The original text can be found here and my adapted version is below.
Now show students the specific information questions below and give them some minutes to read the text. Afterwards, get them to compare answers before checking with the whole group.
- Is the 6-hour work day having positive results in Sweden?
- Do employees still get paid the same?
- Why does Arturo Perez think this is a good idea?
- Does everybody think this is a good idea?
- Does the author think that it could work in the USA?
As a follow-up, ask students to discuss these questions.
- Do you think a 6-hour workday could work in Brazil? Why or why not?
- To what extent should companies worry about the happiness of their employees?
Get feedback from the whole group and if students are interested in this discussion, follow it up with this video activity.
Tell students they are going to watch a video from an American presenter talking about the idea of a 6-hour workday in the USA. As a gist task, ask students to answer this:
Does Rubin have the same opinion as the author of the text (that this wouldn’t work in the USA)?
Play the video only up to 2:42 and use closed captions with lower level students.
Get students to compare answers and then check with the whole group. Play the video again and now students need to answer these questions. Again, play the video only up to 2:42.
Are Swedish workers productive?
Does working more equals more productivity?
Why does Rubin say this is unamerican?
What should be the focus of the change?
Finally, show students the image of the ranking that appears in the video and ask students to discuss this question. You can find the full ranking here.
Do you think Brazil is more similar to which countries on this list? Why?
Alternatively, you could also go back to the text and explore the vocabulary that appears in bold.
to call in sick
get tied up
to pull the plug
to recharge your batteries
Either give students definitions for them to match or ask them to guess the meaning of the words/expressions in pairs (which works better with higher levels). Either way, concept check the expressions before moving on to practice exercises. It’s a good idea to draw students attention to the pronunciation of ‘get tied up’ as it’s an example of both elision and catenation /getaɪdʌp/.
For some contextualized practice, you could get students to discuss the questions below.
Do you sometimes get tied up in meetings? Does that reduce your productivity?
Have you ever had to pull the plug on something? Why?
Do you get frazzled after work at the end of the week?
How do you usually recharge your batteries during the weekend?
When was the last time you called in sick at work? Is that a problem?
What are the odds that you are going to travel abroad next year?
Thanks for reading.