Six-month try-out heightens pressures for four-day work week


A bus goes past the Houses of Parliament and the Big Ben in London on December 29, 2021.

Photo credit: Courtesy | AFP

Letter from London

Less work for the same money, the dream of many employees, will become a reality over the next six months for thousands of people in the UK.

In the largest experiment of its kind that the world has ever seen, some 3,300 workers across 70 companies will work four days (32 hours) a week but make the same amount of money they would receive for the usual five-day week of 40 hours.

In exchange for fewer hours, the workers commit to producing at least the same results as they would by working five days.

Campaigners say pressures for a 32-hour work week have increased in recent years, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic, which left many people facing burnout.

Will Stronge, director of research at the think tank Autonomy, argues that the five-day work week is outdated.

He said, “We cannot concentrate all the time, particularly if we are overworked, and so reducing the working week has reaped dividends in productivity and worker wellbeing. People come to work refreshed, liking their job a bit more, wanting to get their work done so they can have a nice, long weekend.”

The experiment will involve companies in industry, health care, even local fish and chip shops, according to an article by the BBC.

Said one of the researchers involved, Professor Juliet Schor of Boston College, “We will analyse how employees respond to having an extra day off in terms of job and life satisfaction, health sleep energy and other aspects of life.

Productivity will be a major focus, and similar try-outs elsewhere suggest companies can expect a positive outcome.

An experiment by Microsoft in Japan in 2019 resulted in a 40 per cent increase in productivity. In 2018, a New Zealand company testing a four-day week announced a 20 per cent boost in employee productivity.

As for the extra day off, Mr Stronge reported that many workers told him they would use it to spend more time with friends and family.

* * *

Around 64,000 people die in the UK each year from conditions related to smoking, but a new plan has been suggested whereby today’s teenagers will never be old enough to buy cigarettes.

A report commissioned by the government proposes that the age limit to purchase cigarettes, currently 18 years, should be raised year by year so that tobacco would always remain legally out of reach of young people. By the end of the decade, no-one under 27 would be allowed to buy smokes.

The report also calls for a ban on smoking in beer gardens and on beaches, for health warnings to be stamped on individual cigarettes and for a 30 per cent increase in the tax on tobacco.

About 15 per cent of British people smoke today, down from 50 per cent in the 1970s.

* * *

On June 12, Queen Elizabeth became the second longest serving monarch in recorded history, exceeding the reign of 70 years and 126 days notched up by King Bhumibol of Thailand, who died in 2016.

She is now second only to King Louis XIV of France, who served for more than 72 years but came to the throne at the age of four.

According to royal statisticians, the Queen has visited more than 100 countries, carried out 21,000 engagements, given royal assent to some 4,000 Acts of Parliament and sent 300,000 birthday cards to British people celebrating their 100th year.

She is also the longest serving monarch in British history, having exceeded the 63-year rule of Queen Victoria, her great-great grandmother, in 2015.

* * *

The last straw …

Back in 1996, a well-known gangster, Kenneth Noye, was involved in a road rage incident on a motorway with 21-year-old Stephen Cameron, and pulling a knife, he stabbed Cameron to death.

Noye went to prison, but Stephen Cameron’s father, Ken, was devastated.

In 2016, Ken’s wife, Toni, died, and three years later, Noye was released from prison.

In March of this year, Ken’s pet dog died and hours later, Ken was found dying in his flat in Ashford, Kent.

Coroner Katrina Hepburn recorded a verdict of suicide.

I think we can understand why.

* * *

Hard to believe…

A pizza customer dialled 999 to complain to the police that his delivery was delayed by 30 minutes and “I’m getting hungry”.

Another man rang to ask the time because his watch had stopped.

Both calls were made to Essex Police where Chief Supt Stuart Hooper called on people to employ common sense and use the number only for real emergencies

* * *

A couple visited the dentist’s surgery, where the woman said, “I have a tooth that needs extracting but don’t bother to numb the gum because we’re in a hurry.”

Said the dentist, admiringly, “You are a courageous woman. Which tooth is it?”

The wife turned to her husband and said, “Show him your tooth, dear.”


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