Three-day weekends might do the world a favour

11 Oct 2016 | By Supriya Kaur

US based economists David Rosnick and Mark Weisbrot, have argued that three-day weekends could significantly reduce energy consumption and reduction in carbon emissions.

They stated that if American companies emulated European levels of working hours, they would succeed in cutting down energy consumption by a massive 20%.

Three day weekends could future-proof our economy and people. Let' see how and why in this timeline.

In context: Can four-day weeks save the climate and people?

11 Oct 2016Three-day weekends might do the world a favour

How?Could shorter work-days be environment-friendly?

If four-day weeks were to become the norm, employees would benefit from a significant drop in commute time to-and-fro from work.

Separately, companies would see immense savings as operational costs like office lighting, air-conditioning, support staff and other expenses incurred to keep offices running, would reduce.

Equipment like computers and other machinery would undergo less wear and tear resulting in reduced maintenance costs.

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Any experiments in the real world?

The Utah ExperimentAny experiments in the real world?

In 2007, Utah, US restructured government employees' work week; Monday-Thursday hours were longer and Friday wasn't a working day.

In 10 months, Utah saved $1.8 million in energy-costs and 12,000 tons of savings of greenhouse-gas emissions.

The experiment was abandoned in 2011; residents complained it was difficult to access government-services on a Friday.

Utah had failed to align residents' expectations with the changed schedule.

What do studies show?Physical and mental-health impacted by lesser work-hours

In 2015, Sweden conducted a study that saw nurses working reduced hours. They switched their 8-hour work day to a six-hour work day.

The study found that nurses took fewer sick-leaves and were able to provide better care to patients.

A study of 2000 British civil-servants found that people who worked 55 hours/week performed worse on cognitive tests compared to those who worked 40-hours.

Britons reel under massive work stress

Britons work the longest hours in Europe and surveys have linked long-hours to stress, sleep problems, increased sick-leaves and reduced productivity. A YouGov survey in April found that 57% of workers support a four-day week and 71% think it would make Britain a happier place.

ExamplesCan companies' bottom-line benefit as well?

An SEO start-up in Stockholm implemented a six-hour work day and assumed it would lead to increased hiring However, it led to employees working more efficiently instead. The company has since managed to double its revenue and profits each year.

Ctrip, a Chinese travel firm, found its employees demonstrated a 13 percent increase in productivity from employees worked from home and had flexible schedules.

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Counter-viewHave flexible schedules worked?

Around 4.5 million Americans and 4 million Britons have the option of working-from-home.

There has been consistent debate around productivity, speed and quality that possibly falters when working from home.

Reports suggest that workers have actually found fatigue and stress levels increase while working from home .

In 2013, Yahoo banned employees from remote-working as communication and collaboration was impacted when not working side-by-side.

How?Four-day weeks could become essential due to automation

Automation in the workplace comprising of advanced-robotics and machine learning systems are predicted to replace 47% of current jobs in America and 54% in Europe in the coming decades.

Given these circumstances, available work would plummet and three-day weekends might become essential to be in sync with changed economic conditions.

Automation would lead to a different world of work using less energy and human-labour.

Sign of times to come?

In Aug'2016, Amazon piloted a four-day week. The company stated, "We want to create a work environment that is tailored to a reduced schedule and still fosters success and career growth". It stemmed from the realization that a full-time schedule wasn't a "one-size-fits all model".