Comment: Three-day weekend is just the beginning

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Caroline Lucas appeared on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show with Jonathan Bartley to discuss the idea of a three-day weekend

By Jack Thomson

The Green Party’s innovative proposal to introduce a three-day weekend is exactly the type of thinking that is necessary to address the cultural apathy festering throughout the UK.

Announced at the party’s Liverpool conference, the idea is set to be included in its 2020 manifesto. It represents a fresh approach to working hours that could tackle a range of problems from overwork and unemployment to a lack of time to make the most of life.

Caroline Lucas described the party’s perspective as a ‘more hopeful alternative’ for young people and those feeling let down by Brexit. But it goes further than this, it breeds a vision of doing things differently and refusing to prescribe to the accepted norm.

Some companies in Sweden have already pioneered a starkly different attitude to the working life by piloting a switch to a shorter working day. The change to a seven-hour day is intended to increase productivity and simply make people happier.

With work-related stress and ill-health so prominent in the UK, it is refreshing to see a party willing to adopt a philosophy from another country that is focused on putting people first.

A three-day weekend would just be the beginning. A report by the New Economics Foundation makes the point that a change from the ‘normal’ working week of 40 hours to 21 could help distribute paid work more evenly across the population. It represents a radical tactic, which could overhaul the inherent inequalities that exist in society.

On a fundamental level, it would improve family life. Many children in the UK are accustomed to growing up with parents absent for long periods because of work commitments. Less time in the office, means more quality time spent at home.

If the idea was to ever gain traction, ultimately its implementation would not be without teething problems. Clearly, it would take time. However, it is not outwith the realms of possibility for companies to reduce hours gradually in line with annual wage increments. Additionally, if employers were to provide a more hands-on approach to training, they could create a more passionate workforce that is confident of being more productive in a shorter space of time.

Anyone that works in an office at the moment would likely attest to the fact that their 9-5 day is broken down by coffee breaks, ponderous internet browsing and other forms of procrastination.

Most would endorse cutting hours to increase productivity and while it might seem a radical way of thinking, perhaps radical is what we need to tackle the mundane work life.

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