Instead of protecting what has been established a century ago, businesses need to look to the future of time spent working, according to Joe O’Connor.
“We should set our sights on the next big step forward for the liberty of individual workers, which I believe is the four-day working week,” said O’Connor, the Ireland campaign manager and US campaign support manager for the 4-Day Week Campaign.
The 4-Day Week Campaign is a nonprofit coalition of trade unions, businesses, environmentalists, academics, and women’s representatives that have successfully implemented a four-day work week, according to O’Connor. Their goal is to make the reduction from a 40-hour week to a 32-hour week the standard, with no loss of pay or productivity.
“We have started a public conversation in Ireland on the case for reduced working hours, and our medium-term objective is for the four-day work week to become the new default work arrangement across the economy with no loss of pay,” O’Connor said.
The campaign intends for a gradual and adaptable transition to the four-day work week for businesses in all sectors of the economy. It also stresses the widespread benefits of such a transition.
These benefits have statistical support, according to O’Connor. The trials have had an array of advantages for employees.
“Many companies who have trialed or introduced the four-day working week report happier, more focused employees, and critically higher productivity,” he said. “They’ve experienced reduced employee burnout, stress, sick leave and absenteeism.”
O’Connor said a four-day work week has benefits that extend beyond workplace performance and can improve multiple aspects of an employee’s life.
“It would also enable people to spend more time with their families, learn new skills, have more time for rest, leisure, and socialization, and give back to their local communities,” he said.
The benefits of the four-day week are not just for the employees, but for businesses as well.
“From a business perspective it can be a business improvement strategy centered on working smarter rather than longer, and investing in the well-being of the most important asset to any business—their people,” he said.
O’Connor said that long hours do not equate to more employee output and is therefore not an accurate way to determine income.
“We need to focus instead on measuring and rewarding collective outputs, results, and productivity,” he said.
O’Connor said that businesses should empower their employees to determine how to maximize output in a shorter work week. The employees know best where inefficiencies lie and can use that knowledge to effect change themselves.
“The people who can best identify the inefficiencies in their working day are the people who are working it,” he said.
The transition to the four-day week needs to be gradual and adaptable, O’Connor said, so sudden legislation would not be successful in its implementation.
“We are not arguing for a wholesale move towards a four-day working week from tomorrow by decree or by legislation, as some might,” O’Connor said. “We are making the case that this needs to be a steady and managed transition.”
According to O’Connor, the economy already has enough capacity to begin the transition now.
“We believe we have more than enough productive capacity in our economy as it is to start making this move,” he said.
Featured Image Courtesy of Steve Mooney / Heights Staff