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A four-day working week could boost productivity, benefit the environment and improve overall health

What if I told you there’s a way you can be more productive at work, be happier and healthier physically and mentally and considerably reduce the amount of pollution produced by big companies all by working fewer hours a week. Does that sound too good to be true? Well, it’s real and proven and this blog post will explain how a 4-day work week can do all that and more.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “quality over quantity,” Let’s apply this to work. It’s only right that employees should be paid for the quality of work and productivity over the number of hours in the office. Think about it, do you feel productive at 4 pm? or do you often find yourself thinking about being stuck in rush hour traffic or what you need to pick up from the supermarket. It’s proven that the brain is only productive for 52 minutes, after that you should take a 10-15-minute break in order to stay productive.

A study that took place in Sweden compared a group of employees; they decreased their hours from 8 to 6 (staying at the same salary) with a control group who continued to work 8 hours. The results showed that the employees with the reduced hours reported higher efficiency, called in sick 15% less, their health and happiness improved by 20%, and reported that they had more energy both at work and at home. This is not the only study that has found results like this, the truth is that a 40-hour working week is outdated and inefficient. The last drastic change in working hours occurred when Ford cut their hours from 16 to 8 in 1914. This resulted in increased productivity however, since then, the 8-hour working day is still the norm.

Being busy and overwhelmed is not good for anyone’s mental state, in fact, stress is one of the biggest contributors to mental health issues including anxiety and depression. This results in unhappy workers who are less productive and take more time off. Mind UK states that work is the most stressful factor in people’s lives with 1 in 3 people (34%) saying their work-life was either very or quite stressful.

A survey with over 2000 people found that workplace stress resulted in 7% of people having suicidal thoughts (it increased to 10% in 18-24-year olds) and 1 in 5 people develop anxiety. Childcare commitments, doctors’ appointments, and practical everyday tasks add to our stress because we simply don’t have the time to do them outside of work.

Stress also causes physical health problems too, NIH states that continued strain on your body from stress contributes to serious health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and many other illnesses. Working more hours also decreases your energy and affects your sleep.

Working fewer hours in an office can help our environment, It’s no secret that big companies produce the most pollution. We have a lot of steps to take to change our ways and care for our planet properly and there are so many easy ways that could help reduce emissions. A 4-day working week trial by the Microsoft Japan office saw electricity costs drop by nearly a quarter and 60% fewer pages were also printed. A 2012 study found that a 10% reduction in work hours may lead to a 12.1% decline in ecological footprint, a 14.6% decline in carbon footprint, and a reduction of CO₂ emissions by 4.2%. Working less hour would also reduce the number of cars on the road, research shows that a national four-day working week would reduce the number of miles driven by employees each week by 558 million. A three-day weekend also gives more opportunities for workers to exercise, spend time outdoors, and do other things that improve their physical and mental health which would reduce the demand for carbon-producing healthcare services.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has proved that working fewer hours a week could be easily implemented. With more people working from home right now than ever before, revolutionary changes to working are more feasible and it makes you wonder what the future of working might hold. Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand Prime Minister, received a lot of attention when she suggested the idea of reducing the country’s working week from five days to four. It was part of a discussion about how to help the country’s economy recover from the effects of coronavirus by giving people more time to do the things they love. It’s been a challenging and strange time having everyone work from home so suddenly, but it has also proved that flexible working is very feasible and the outdated workplace hours need to be changed. A five-day working week could soon be a thing of the past.

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