Everyone likes the idea of spending less time at work. But is the prospect of the UK government implementing a four day week pure fantasy? Or an inevitable next step?
During the industrial revolution workers would spend most their time in the factories with little time off. Trade Unions fought to get these days reduced, and finally the two day weekend was written into legislation towards the end of the UK’s Industrial Capitalism period.
This was still a time when most people worked in factories. Meaning there was a direct correlation between how much time employees spent at work and productivity. However, todays job market is a very different landscape with Manufacturing and Mining only equating to 7.9% of the workforce.
There has also been some significant progress towards a four day week in other countries. In February 2018 the German union IG Metall won a landmark case, entitling it’s members to 28-hour work weeks plus a 4% pay rise.
When reviewing all the arguments for a shorter working week, there are two main reasons why I think it’s inevitably going to happen.
Productivity is Higher When Employees Work Less
There is an overworking epidemic in the UK, and data reveals that in 2017 over 12 million work days were lost due to stress, depression, and anxiety. In over 40% of the cases ‘workload’ was stated as the cause.
Another recent study conducted by the University of Warwick , found that happy employees are 12% more productive. Whereas those who are unhappy at work are 10% less productive.
By allowing employees to work less, you are giving them more time to do the things they enjoy. Whether it’s spending more time with the family, or pursuing a hobby. This in turn makes them happier and more well rested, which leads to higher productivity.
Another point worth mentioning is Parkinsons Law, which states “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” This means that if you give yourself 7 hours to do a 1 hour task, you’ll end up taking 7 hours to finish the work.
Essentially this means that making your employees work more doesn’t make them more productive. It just makes them much less efficient.
After reviewing these facts, it’s clear that shorter work weeks would lead to larger profits and a more efficient workforce.
People Consume More During Days off Work
Its no secret that our capitalist society needs its citizens to purchase and consume as much as possible in order to grow. That’s why in the UK alone, over £5 billion was spent on Advertising in 2017.
What is also true is that people spend more money during their time off. Whether its on beers with friends at the weekend, or fancy meals whilst on holiday. So by giving everyone an extra day off each week (52 days a year) consumption will go up.
As highlighted by the below diagram, the higher the demand for goods and services, the larger the profits for companies. This then creates more jobs which results in more people with money to spend and re-invest into the system.
Considering both these points shows that even from a purely economical point of view the four day weeks makes sense.
This is important, as it’s ultimately money which leads to all major political and societal changes (despite what the government would have us believe!). So have a strong economical incentive behind the four day week will have a big impact.
It may be a bold claim, but I’d put money on the four day week being introduced by 2025.
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