I don’t often take days off. Some days I’ll do the bare minimum, but I’m still doing at least a little work. Part of that is because I’m afraid that if I take time off, I won’t be able to start back up with daily posting. A lot of it is that if I hope to ever get to the point where I’m making even minimum wage, I need to post often, and have content that people might consider paying for (patreon.com/oceanoxia). Basically, I’m an internet busker, and if I’m not putting in the time, I can’t expect to make a living. Honestly, I don’t expect that even if I do put in the time, which is part of why I’m working on the novel I’ve mentioned before. All of this is to say that I basically have a 7 day work week, which pulls in very little money (though you could help change that!), which makes it just a little amusing to write about a resoundingly successful trial of a four-day work week that took place right here in Ireland!
The project, backed by Fórsa and carried out in partnership by Four-Day Week Ireland, University College Dublin (UCD), and Boston College, examined the financial, social, and environmental impact that a four-day working week would have on businesses and employees in Ireland.
Following the trial, 100 per cent of employees indicated they would like to continue a reduced work schedule. Nine of the 12 companies involved are committed to continuing with the four-day week, while the remaining three are planning to continue but have not made a long-term commitment.
Lead researcher Dr Orla Kelly said: “All participating organisations plan to continue the reduced work schedule. Productivity levels are up. We found significant improvements across a wide range of well-being metrics, including positive affect, work-family and work-life balance, and several domains of life satisfaction.
“Conversely, stress, burnout, fatigue, and work-family conflict significantly declined. Levels of sleep deprivation have also fallen dramatically. We observed an increase across three forms of pro-environmental behaviour.
“The trial was particularly successful for women. They reported a significantly greater improvement in life satisfaction, had larger gains in sleep time and reported feeling more secure in their employment. Our findings hold important lessons for the future of work in this country.”
I’m not surprised. I’m a huge advocate of people having as much control over their own time as possible, and every time I see research on it, the result seems to be the same – moving to fewer days on the job is better for everyone, even the bosses. The one way it’s not better, which the articles I read don’t mention, is that it means that bosses have less control over their workers’ lives. Personally, I don’t think that’s a “downside” worth considering, but I think it’s something that does need to be considered when thinking about the motivations of business owners. A disproportionate number of them seem to be some form of petty tyrant.
It’s somewhat irritating to me that “improves productivity for employers” always has to be a part of it, though:
“In today’s working world there’s a mismatch between the amount of time we spend working and the time we spend with our families and friends. The four-day week can be at the forefront of a new age of work, providing transformative social benefits without losing pay or productivity.”
In a just world, the fact that the companies can afford it, and that it makes the workers’ lives better, would be enough. Still, in this case it seems that the drive for “more productivity” lines up with the goal of more freedom for workers, since happy, healthy workers tend to be more competent as well.
Despite this research, I suspect that it will be a long, hard struggle to make a shorter work week the norm. Powerful people seem to have a deep horror of any movement away from the arrangement that gave them their power, so we have to make the world better despite them.
But the case can be made, and studies like this show how important it is to fight for this stuff. Another day off is a huge boon in a world where so much of our time is dictated by work, getting to and from work, and trying to find moments to live in between it all. Further, with overproduction driving this climate crisis, a lot of the work that’s being done now needs to stop being done, and it would be good, in my view, if that didn’t result in anyone losing their home or going hungry. Some of that work can be replaced with environmental cleanup and restoration work – there’s a lot to do – but this is a golden opportunity to start to undo some of the social damage that has been done over the last couple centuries, and start moving towards a world where the point of life isn’t working, but living.
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