The Green Party has at least one thing right, says ADRIAN LOWERY: a four-day working week would increase our quality of life more than any amount of economic growth
If you were given the free, no-conditions choice to work four days a week and have a three-day weekend, would you take it? I know there are some out there who wouldn’t, for various reasons, but most I suspect would be overjoyed at the prospect.
And quite rightly so. Common sense tells me that five-to-two is just too big a ratio. More than twice as many days spent working as not working? Hmmm.
How many people can honestly say that they feel refreshed and raring to get back to work after a two-day weekend? How many can honestly say they have enough time in their lives to do all the things they want to?
What would you rather be doing? A third day off would make a huge difference to the vast majority of salaried workers, says Adrian Lowery.
Say that they see enough of their friends and family? That they don’t feel their job controls and defines their life, even though they would rather it did not?
The Green Party manifesto contains a pledge to ‘Phase in a 4 day working week (a maximum of 35 hours)’ – and it’s a shame the parties that will wield power are too scared to even consider it.
Scared of big business and global financial services companies that is. After all who is going to NOT vote for a party because they’ve offered to look into the possibility of a four-day week?
A third day off would make a huge difference to the vast majority of salaried workers. One day for chores, I think most of us would think, then two to spend as you wish.
It would be possible to visit friends and family who live in other parts of the country without having to prevent high levels of stress by taking a day’s holiday.
You might then get so fed up of your family that you actually looked forward to going back to work.
I would set aside one day on most weekends to do absolutely nothing apart from lie in, read a book for a few hours, then go for a walk, with a pub at the end of it. In fact, we manage this most weekends anyway but the bed linen doesn’t get changed as often as it should.
Who can honestly say that they see enough of their friends and family?
‘Of course,’ I can hear all the worldly realists out there sighing, ‘that’s all well and good but practically it’s impossible.’
And yes it does seem to fly in the face of the ‘flexible labour markets’ mantra. And there would be all sorts of problems implementing it.
Where do small businesses, who might be strongly opposed to such a move, stand?
What would be the rights of those paid by the hour, or on contracts? What about retailers and the hospitality and leisure industry?
How about global firms with big businesses and large numbers of employees in the UK? How about British firms with lots of dealings internationally?
Too tired to make headway into that pile of unread books? Could there be some connection with working too much?
I can imagine certain sections of the City would be appalled at the prospect. The average Harley Street consultant meanwhile would hardly notice the difference.
But, it’s another modern mantra that there’s no such thing as can’t: you should strive through adversity to get what you want, don’t let problems stand in your way, believe that change can be achieved. Yes we can.
You don’t restructure society without breaking a few eggs.
And maybe in fact the increasing automation and computerisation that poses a threat to millions of jobs across certain sectors over the coming decades is an opportunity: to rethink the world of work.
Fly fishing: one the many worthwhile ways to spend time that isn’t work.
Save jobs by making everyone work less. I suspect overall productivity would not fall as much as economists fear because on the days worked people would be more productive and would almost certainly take fewer sick days.
A soft version of the policy would force employers to give people the option of taking a pay cut to work a four-day week. Though in some sectors that will a good way to deselect yourself from promotion.
If we decide that a four-day week is what we want, then there will be ways and means to achieve it, and merely rubbishing it as impractical shows a lack of resolve and resourcefulness.
It is also the default stance of those who do not want it – i.e., most of the corporate world and business owners.
The worldly realists will revel in pointing out that office workers already have options to work four-day weeks: leave, get a different job, go freelance, go contract, go self-employed, then you can work the hours you want!
This is of course rubbish: in many professions and industries this is either difficult or impossible, it’s not a free choice. You should be able to have a salaried job with all its benefits, and still have a life to enjoy outside it.
Certain sections of our electorate think Britons have struck a blow for freedom by leaving the EU. Well, the single biggest way that globalisation and corporatism grips the lives of this working population is by the arbitrary assumption that five days is the standard working week.
You want to fight for autonomy? Then fight against that.