Can a 4-day workweek save the planet?

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Amid the pandemic and a general shift in how we go to work, a new proposal is gaining traction: a four-day work week. Earlier this year, the town of Keller, Texas switched to a four-day work week, and last year a bill was even proposed in the US House of Representatives.

So what’s the deal? Researchers at the UT Haslam College of Business found that a shorter work week improves productivity, reduces burnout and helps people relax when they’re not working. It also forces people to focus on the results instead of the process required to get there.

There may be an additional benefit: combating climate change.

Meteorologist Rich Segal spoke with 4 Day Work Week Global’s Charlotte Lockhart to discuss the impact a shorter week would have on the climate. You can read that interview below.

Segal: Charlotte is the founder and CEO of 4 Day Work Week Global. Tell me about the 4 day work week globally?

Lockhart: Okay, so we’re an organization that Andrew Barnes and I started, we’ve started having conversations around the world about how we have productivity-focused workplaces that allow us to reduce working hours without reducing pay. So the one most people recognize is the four-day week.

We also support business and want to use some other form of reduced working hours, 32 hour work or other form, because it’s about understanding why reducing the time we work is better for our health, our society and our planet .

What we do is we work with companies where there are staff who can take days off on Mondays, others will take days off on Wednesdays, some businesses are open five or seven days and they just reduce the amount of time people spend working until six o’clock.

So it’s about finding the balance between what the business needs, the needs of its customers and what their people need. And let’s figure out how to do it.

Segal: What is the relationship between the four-day work week and our climate?

Lockhart: Well, the interesting thing is that what we’ve seen, especially during the pandemic, is all the benefits of not getting in our cars to go to work. So this is all pretty well known. And in fact, there was a piece of research that came out of the UK that said if the UK went to a four-day week, it would be the equivalent of taking every single car off the road.

Segal: Do you have an example of a business or government municipality where this has been verified?

Lockhart: There are literally thousands of companies around that are cutting back on work hours and reaping the productivity benefits. There are a number of them, including our own company, Perpetual Guardian, who have also been doing it for quite a few years. So it’s not just something that’s easy to do in a few months, it’s actually something that you can have as a sustainable business practice.

Segal: What is the negativity that people might throw at you in your discussions about how this is actually very helpful?

Lockhart: No, I mean people are negative about things they don’t understand. So, you know, people say, “oh, that’s never going to work in my business or it’s never going to work in my industry.” However, there are companies in almost every industry around the world that perform a reduced-time process in some form.

It really comes down to how flexible business leaders are and how willing they are to adapt to change.

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