The Necessary Evil of Work
Alan Watts | The UK has forgotten its own history | Factoids | Elsewhere
Quote of the Moment
Most of us are willing to put up with lives that consist largely in doing jobs that are a bore, earning the means to seek relief from the tedium by intervals of hectic and expensive pleasure. These intervals are supposed to be the real living, the real purpose served by the necessary evil of work.
| Alan Watts
The UK has forgotten its own history.
Patrick Butler of The Guardian reports:
Lee Rowley, minister for local government, said councils that had adopted the four-day working week ‘should end the practice immediately’.
Apparently, only one district council has experimented with a four-day workweek, South Cambridgeshire. That council had offered employees of the council the same pay for 80% of the work. They report saving £500,000 by hiring fewer temp workers.
But this is the strange outgrowth of a successful 4-day workweek trial in 2022 across the UK:
A trial of a four-day workweek in Britain, billed as the world’s largest, has found that an overwhelming majority of the 61 companies that participated from June to December will keep going with the shorter hours and that most employees were less stressed and had better work-life balance.
That was all while companies reported revenue largely stayed the same during the trial period last year and even grew compared with the same six months a year earlier, according to findings released this week.
Not surprisingly, employees reported benefits, with 71 percent less burned out, 39 percent less stressed and 48 percent more satisfied with their job than before the trial.
Of the workers, 60 percent said it was easier to balance work and responsibilities at home, while 73 percent reported increased satisfaction with their lives. Fatigue was down, people were sleeping more and mental health improved, the findings show.
Of the companies, 92 percent reported they would continue with the four-day workweek, with 30 percent saying it’s a permanent change.
Charlotte Lockhart, co-founder and managing director of 4 Day Week Global, said “resounding success” of the U.K. pilot program mirrors earlier efforts in Ireland and the U.S.
So, the Tory-led government wants to ignore the benefits of the four-day week and shut it down, even while millions of UK workers are burning out.
The strangest fact is that the UK adopted a three-day workweek back in 1974, during an economic crisis, as reported by Andy Beckett [emphasis mine]:
In Britain in 1974, Edward Heath’s Conservative government, faced with a chronic energy shortage caused by an international oil crisis and a miners’ strike, imposed a national three-day working week. For the two months it lasted, people’s non-work lives expanded. Golf courses were busier, and fishing-tackle shops reported large sales increases. Audiences trebled for late-night BBC radio DJs such as John Peel. Some men did more housework: the Colchester Evening Gazette interviewed a young married printer who had taken over the hoovering. Even the Daily Mail loosened up, with one columnist suggesting that parents “experiment more in their sex lives while the children are doing a five-day week at school”.
The economic consequences were mixed. Most people’s earnings fell. Working days became longer. Yet a national survey of companies for the government by the management consultants Inbucon-AIC found that productivity improved by about 5%: a huge increase by Britain’s usual sluggish standards. “Thinking was stimulated” inside Whitehall and some companies, the consultants noted, “on the possibility of arranging a permanent four-day week.”
Nothing came of it.
Time after time, UK leadership learns of the benefits of a shortened workweek and absolutely rejects it.
Refer your Friends
Thank you for reading Work Futures — your support allows me to keep doing this work.
If you enjoy Work Futures, it would mean the world to me if you invited friends to subscribe and read with us. If you refer friends, you will receive benefits that give you special access to Work Futures.
How to participate
1. Share Work Futures. When you use the referral link below, or the “Share” button on any post, you'll get credit for any new subscribers. Simply send the link in a text, email, or share it on social media with friends.
2. Earn benefits. When more friends use your referral link to subscribe (free or paid), you’ll receive special benefits.
Get a 1 month comp for 3 referrals
Get a 3 month comp for 5 referrals
Get a 6 month comp for 25 referrals
To learn more, check out Substack’s FAQ.
Thank you for helping get the word out about Work Futures!
In the U.S. only 50 percent of teenage mothers graduate from high school and just two percent graduate from college. | Mauro Guillén
But we pass laws to make them have those children?
Most big cities are run by Democrats, but those run by Republicans don’t have significantly lower crime. And New York City happens to have remarkably low crime, with a murder rate around half that of Republican-run cities like Miami and Fort Worth. [...] the reality is that red states have consistently higher homicide rates than blue states. | Paul Krugman
Another myth busted.
A 15-year study on over 55,000 Americans ages 18 to 100 found that running just five to 10 minutes per day at a slow pace (under six miles per hour) was associated with “markedly reduced risks” for all causes of death. It was also enough to extend a person’s life by several years. | Markham Heid
In a 2004 study, researchers recorded conversations between employees of a New Zealand soap factory and found that good-humored swearing was common between workers who knew each other well, but absent between workers who were not part of the same friend group. | Rebecca Roache, Why Is Swearing So Much Fun?
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Work Futures to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.