U.K. Independent columnist Johann Hari has a post worth reading over the long weekend. If you’re too busy working to read it, well, that’s the point. Hari laments the American-style culture of overwork that he sees creeping into Britain, comparing it to an arms race. Everyone works harder and longer, or makes sure to look like they are, because everyone else is working harder and longer, because we’re all competing for jobs. Even though we know this pace isn’t good for us.
“Work can be one of the richest and most rewarding experiences, but not like this,” Hari writes.
He draws inspiration from the Utah state government, which adopted a 4/10 workweek two years ago. Most state employees now work 10-hour days Monday through Thursday and get three-day weekends. The shift saved money, as intended. It also reduced traffic and auto pollution. Keeping office lights and air-conditioning units off on Fridays cuts energy use.
More importantly, people like it. Citizens like having state offices open an hour before and after the 8-5 work day. Eighty-two percent of state workers say they prefer the new schedule. And wait—there’s more:
A whole series of unexpected benefits started to emerge. The number of sick days claimed by workers fell by 9 percent. Air pollution fell, since people were spending 20 percent less time in their cars. Some 17,000 tonnes of warming gases were kept out of the atmosphere. They have a new slogan in Utah — Thank God It’s Thursday.
Of course the four-day workweek doesn’t work for every job, though employers such as General Motors are trying it out too.
From an environmental standpoint, such programs result in real, measurable reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions and smog pollution. Yet they don’t have to be sold as “green” solutions if they stand on quality-of-life merits. That’s a lovely asset, since anything climatey is instantly politicized, and since there’s evidence that green is a worn-out brand.