Though the widely circulated story of Finland’s proposed four day work week has turned out to be a myth, the concept is widely debated at the moment. Indeed, Labour included the policy in their most recent manifesto. A fair amount of research has been done on the link (or lack of) between hours worked and productivity, and it is well documented that the best performing countries are not the ones with the longest working hours (a list currently topped by Ireland). The four day work week has been trialled by individual companies such as Microsoft in Japan and Perpetual Guardian in New Zealand, both with positive results. However, both of these were office environments, and it seems obvious that one size cannot fit all when it comes to working hours.
- How would this work for physical labour? Can a house, for example, be built in the same time frame, but in less hours? What of factories? Can production lines keep up productivity with less hours worked?
- What of roles with fixed client/customer-facing times where hours are not linked to productivity? Shops and hospitals, for example, would need to hire more staff to cover the hours needed. This would inevitably be more expensive for employers.
- Does being more productive in less hours reduce or increase stress? Could it also be that working at a higher pace actually condenses and heightens stress, thus requiring more rest to deal with it anyway? If so, are we really better off? For employees who already work in high pressure roles, the idea of having to produce the same amount of work in less time is unlikely to sound appealing.
- What is the optimum rest to work ratio for productivity? Productivity is also linked to work enjoyment. Unhappy workers are less productive, and so in some cases perhaps the solution is not less work, but more work fulfilment. What is onerous work for one person can be an enjoyable hobby for another, and the latter is surely the more productive.
- In a permanently connected world, work is ever present. Fixed work hours are increasingly a thing of the past for office workers, and a digital presence is required during all business hours, and frequently out of them too. How does this fit with a four day week?
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