To many people, the idea of working a four day week is the stuff of dreams: the opportunity to break free from the day-to-day grind of office life; give more time to family and friends; and perhaps pursue some life-long goals and ambitions that have been side-lined due to the short-term pressures of the working week.
According to 21 Hours, a report published in February by leading think tank The New Economics Foundation, this dream could become reality in the near-future. The report argues that many current problems in the UK the wounded economy, disastrous over-consumption of goods and a ‘divided’ society rife with unemployment on one hand and over-work on the other would be alleviated by a 21 hour working week for all.
Anna Coote, co-author of the report and Head of Social Policy at NEF, is confident that reduced hours at work would give us “more time to be better parents, better citizens, better carers and better neighbors”. She adds that, “we could even become better employees: less stressed, more in control, happier in our jobs and more productive.” NEF claim that the current nine-to-five, five day a week setup is a ‘relic’ of the industrial revolution; it is now time to ‘turn back the industrial clock’ and embrace a lighter working life.
To many, this might seem like little more than an unrealistic, bohemian fantasy, but the report points to the fact that a four-day week for public sector staff in Utah, implemented in 2008, ‘saved energy, reduced absenteeism and increased productivity’.
Whether or not the 21 hour week comes into operation anytime soon, it is true to say that there is an increasing trend towards flexble working in today’s society. Andrew Simms, the joint-author of the report, has observed that “Job sharing is common practice … It’s going to be increasing. Maybe we’ll have less income and more time”. Computerized time and attendance systems, like those produced by Advance Systems America, can help companies to deal with this shift in working patterns.