Along with the robots, the shorter work week is coming. This will continue a historical trend towards shorter working hours, driven by technological progress and labour rights. The two-day weekend, after all, is only about a century old.
The idea is popular with workers. Eighty-one per cent of those polled by the Trades Union Congress in the UK want shorter work weeks. At some companies that have trialled a four-day week, employees with longer weekends are less stressed but just as productive (or even more so). Happier workers translate into less employee turnover and fewer sick days, as well as more satisfied customers.
But many employees are unwilling to lower their living standards – even though the environmental benefits of shorter work weeks are a major reason this movement is picking up steam. It’s been estimated that a 25% decrease in working hours would shrink carbon footprints by 37%, for reasons including less travel and less energy use.
So a four-day work week would need to be accompanied by smart policies to reap all the environmental and health benefits without significantly reducing quality of life. These policies could include free recreational and cultural activities, along with some guarantee of a decent income – whether that takes the form of no pay cuts, a higher minimum wage or a universal basic income.
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Image credit: Piero Zagami and Michela Nicchiotti.