Some companies have started trialing four-day working weeks to see if we work better when we work less.
The Japanese offices of Microsoft became the latest business to experiment with paying full-time staff to work just four days a week to see if it raises productivity (i.e. the quality and quantity of the work produced). In excellent news for fans of three-day weekends, it appears it does. Workers were 40 percent more productive on four days a week than five. The idea may take off in the UK: both the Green Party and the Labour Party have put the policy in their manifestos.
But why do we seem to work better by working less? The theory currently going around is that we produce more stuff when we’re happier, and having more free time to spend on hobbies or with the people we love has a big boost on our wellbeing. If so, that suggests economists and politicians - who when measuring economic success have traditionally downplayed the importance of how we all feel in favour of focusing on things like how much money we all have - have rather missed a trick.
For some business owners, there may be extra benefits to shortening the working week. On a day where nobody is working, the company doesn’t have to pay for lighting and heating and cleaning and coffee and even, possibly, rent. Those extra savings help raise their profitability even further.
So how do we get what we need to live? Our livelihoods are our own personal answer to that question, whether it be job in a factory, setting up a start-up, or taking time out to travel. But the economy we live in affects the choices we have in setting up our livelihoods, and we rely on so many other workers around us to be able to do what we do… how do we get the balance right?