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Four Day Weeks Are Good For The Planet Too

Updated: Mar 23, 2023

We know that employees love a four-day work week and that, on average, research shows businesses adopting a four day working pattern increased their revenues by more than a third. Now, there’s more proof that the planet likes a 4 day week too.

Recent trials of the flexible hours model, which included 70 companies in the UK and 33 in the US and Ireland, tracked a noteworthy reduction in commuting hours - by 10 percent in the UK and 27 percent in the US.

Woman relaxing beside a swimming pool

That means fewer cars on the road and a decrease in carbon emissions. Juliet Schor, an economist and sociologist at Boston College and lead researcher at 4 Day Week Global who worked on both the UK and US pilots, argues that a shorter working week is key to achieving the carbon emissions reductions the world needs. "Although climate benefits are the most challenging thing to measure, we have a lot of research showing that over time, as countries reduce hours of work, their carbon emissions fall," she says.

An unforeseen effect caught the eye of consulting firm Tyler Grange during the UK trial: carbon emissions related to the sending and storage of data significantly dropped. Big data-storing centres can each consume the same amount of electricity as 50,000 homes, so that was another significant win. "The lack of [online] business traffic on Fridays could have a substantial impact on emissions, possibly even more important than the drop in commuting," co-founder Simon Ursell says.

Data from the US Energy Information Administration also shows people in the US burn nearly 10 percent less fossil fuels on weekends than they do on weekdays. So he believes shifting Friday from a weekday to a weekend day could represent a significant improvement in fossil fuel emissions. "These numbers show that the four-day week can really have a substantial impact," Jon Leland of Kickstarter says.

But reductions in carbon footprint are just part of the story. With their newfound free time, many participating workers hiked, volunteered for environmental causes and were more selective about consumption and recycling.

The four-day week also has an edge over many other climate solutions: it's not perceived as a sacrifice. "A shorter workweek with no loss in pay is joyful, " says Leland. "It's something that we all want."

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