The rise of the four-day working week

By Candice Krieger
January 19, 2009

News that global accountancy firm KPMG has asked its 11,000 British staff if they would switch to a four-day week or take sabbatical breaks in an attempt to avoid redundancies in the recession raises an interesting question. As the credit crunch continues to bite, might this be the working practice of the future?

European and British-based companies have already implemented such procedures, putting staff on part-time contracts and asking them to accept lower pay. Car firm Jaguar and construction company Galliford have placed its workers on a four-day week, while Vauxhall is currently in negotiations with unions over a shift to a shorter working week. Firms in Silicon Valley; Cisco Systems, National Semiconductor and Oracle, are also considering it.

The moves will be viewed by many as a further - and frightening - reflection of the shockwaves rippling through the City. But, would a four-day week really such a bad idea? Companies will save money, keep their talent - and hopefully kick-start the economy - and just imagine what you could do with an extra 52 days off a year.

There would be more time for mental and physical self-improvement, more family contributions, and the opportunity for more charity and volunteer work in the community. Three-day weekends might actually allow us to relax. As stress levels fall - so might health claims - and morale would improve, leading to increased productivity (and happier work colleagues). There could be less absentee time as employees could schedule medical and personal appointments on their day off. Companies would save on caretaking services, energy bills and security costs, while the environment would benefit from fewer commuter cars and reduced emissions.

Whether a four-day week becomes the new norm remains to be seen - the idea could well fade once the economy revives. But in the meantime, I'm up for it. Am off home.




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