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A four-day week would help workers and firms | Work-life balance

A four-day week would help workers and firms | Work-life balance


The report by the thinktank Autonomy (Four-day working week could create 500K new jobs in UK, study says, 30 August) is very welcome – and timely. An additional day’s leisure would not only massively improve work-life balance, and indirectly help areas such as childcare, but of course stimulate the leisure, retail and hospitality industries, which have been hit very hard by the pandemic.

Retail practices have changed hugely from 50 years ago, when shops closed at 5pm (earlier on Saturdays) and Sunday was a barren day, with virtually no shops open and little entertainment available, to today’s seven-day-week economy, with the ability to purchase goods and services 24/7.

Many working patterns have changed as a result, with millions of workers no longer working nine to five, and instead having to work a range of shifts to cover the 24-hour economy. So for many, other than the number of days worked, there will still be late, early and weekend shifts, while for others a three-day weekend becomes a real possibility.

One positive effect of Covid has been the testing of how working from home has affected businesses. It seems inevitable that when “normality” returns, large cohorts of employees will be working a significant number of days from home, saving commuting time and transport costs, and lowering emissions. This, combined with a four-day week, would significantly reduce demand for office space, allowing businesses to make substantial savings.

Rishi Sunak should commission a study on the viability of a four-day week as a matter of urgency.
Mike Parker
Sutton, Oxfordshire

• The pandemic has changed how businesses operate, and we’re determined to make the change a positive one. Millions of workers are enjoying more flexible hours, and lockdown has highlighted the importance of time with family. That is why we have all started a four-day working week – without any reduction in pay – to help support our employees’ mental health and wellbeing, and give them a healthier work-life balance.

Many of us are still in the early days of making the change, but so far it’s been a huge success. Every single week, we have achieved our targets, productivity has been boosted and staff are loving their four-day week.

We’re now calling on the rest of the business community to follow suit and move to a four-day working week. Since the 1980s, UK workers have seen almost no reduction in working hours and, while our productivity lags behind, we work longer hours than most other European countries. As a result, more than two-thirds are stressed or overworked.

A four-day week for the whole of the UK is within reach, but it will only come about if businesses, trade unions and the government work together to make it happen.
David Cann Managing director, Target Publishing, Matthew Eynon Director, Earth Science Partnership, Richard Lowes Creative director, Punch Creative, and Luke Sartain Founder and CEO, upUgo

• Although working from home threatens the economy (No return of workers to offices ‘could cost UK economy £480bn’, 30 August), surely we should be more concerned about the effect of returning to work on the climate crisis?

Now that the pandemic has shown that many people can work from home most of the time, it is a golden opportunity to change our working practices and help move towards a zero-carbon Britain.
Janet Poliakoff

• Join the conversation – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

• Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters


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