The advantages of a four-day workweek for output and employee satisfaction are gaining popularity, but the situation is more difficult when it comes to climate change.
Tyler Grange, a recently established environmental consultant with offices in Gloucestershire, UK, and founded by Simon Ursell and his three fellow co-founders, decided to offer all of its employees one day off per month to participate in volunteer work in 2011.
They discovered that several of their new workers had already started volunteering for wildlife trusts in their spare time. Our ecologists have always enjoyed their work, according to Ursell.
However, Tyler Grange tried out giving every employee a fifth of their workweek off last year, which some could view as a much more extreme step towards worker wellbeing.
The business participated in the largest four-day workweek trial in history, which was conducted in the UK from June to December 2022.
Tyler Grange’s managers and employees enthusiastically welcomed the achievement after learning that daily output had increased by 22%. Ursell was also interested in measuring how the shorter workweek would affect the carbon footprint of the organisation. The four-day workweek also proved to be quite beneficial for this, he claims.
He says with a smile, “On average we witnessed a 21% drop in the amount of miles travelled by car. Tyler Grange eliminated pointless meetings and travel. Many workers increased their involvement in climate volunteerism over their extra days off.
The four-day workweek is a topic of discussion that is spreading throughout the world. A shortened workweek’s effects have also been studied by the public sector in Iceland, businesses in Spain, Sweden, Belgium, Japan, and New Zealand, as well as the non-profit organisation that oversaw the UK study, 4 Day Week Worldwide.
But, the UK study, which included more than 60 businesses and organisations, was the largest so far. The final findings were released on February 21. Since then, some businesses have backed up earlier research that claimed a reduced workweek might be beneficial to the environment.
DO FOUR-DAY WEEKS ACTUALLY WORK?
56 of the 70 businesses participating in the 2022 UK study said they would continue to use a four-day workweek after the pilot programme concluded.
They listed advantages like improved productivity and significant cost savings for workers on childcare and transportation. Employees appear especially eager to establish shorter workweeks as the norm, which is understandable.
A four-day work week, however, may seem advantageous in some occupations, such as those in the technology sector, but some wonder whether it will work in more established industries. Learn more about the potential reach of the four-day workweek.
The principal researcher for 4 Day Week Worldwide and an economist and sociologist at Boston College who worked on both the US and UK pilots, Juliet Schor, contends that a shorter workweek is essential to attaining the necessary reductions in carbon emissions.
Although measuring the benefits for the environment is difficult, a lot of research has shown that over time, as countries cut back on working hours, their carbon emissions decline. According to a 2012 research Schor co-authored, a 10% reduction in hours is connected with an 8.6% decrease in carbon footprint.
A decrease in commuting is one of the most significant factors in the four-day workweek’s benefits for the environment. The companies that recorded commuting time saw a 10% decrease during the pilot period, from 3.5 hours to 3.15 hours per week, according to data from the UK study provided with Future Planet. Even though this is a big fall, Schor estimates savings of up to 15-20%. The decrease was considerably greater in the 2022 US study, going from 3.56 to 2.59 hours per week (a 27% reduction).
When people work less, they have more free time for sustainable activities which are often more time-intensive – Stefanie Gerold
The UK and US studies also discovered that many people used the time saved by not having to commute or go to work to engage in low-carbon pursuits like hiking or home-based hobbies. The UK data also demonstrated that the change to a shorter workweek increased pro-environmental behaviours: trial participants spent more time volunteering for environmental causes, were more cautious with recycling, and purchased more environmentally friendly goods.
“When people work less, they have more free time for sustainable activities, which are often more time-intensive,” claims Stefanie Gerold, a researcher at Germany’s Brandenburg University of Technology who was not involved in the UK or US trials but who developed several working time reduction models that were implemented in Austrian companies.
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Employee volunteering increased at both the US study participant crowdfunding site Kickstarter and the UK trial participant non-profit Waterwise. Vice President and head of sustainability at Kickstarter, Jon Leland, claims to have seen an increase in social and civic engagement among employees.
The four-day workweek is intended to increase productivity while preventing overwork. Efficiency also pertains to energy. According to Laura White, project and research manager at Waterwise, more vacation days may lead to more energy-efficient workers. Because they are ultimately responsible for paying the bill, people are careful when they are at home.
The majority of the businesses who participated in the UK study came to the conclusion that the shorter workweek is advantageous for both the environment and business. So having more days off from work in the future is best for the environment?
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