Three-day weekends could be the norm?
As the UK prepares for an extended Bank Holiday weekend (from Friday 14th—Tuesday 17th April 2016) to celebrate Easter, many news publications are pontificating the likelihood of whether three-day weekends could one day become commonplace for the UK's 33.67m workforce to replace the current 5-day working week.
In what many would see as an overt criticism of Utopianism, whilst fewer working hours sounds like an ideal situation for workers who would benefit hugely from increased leisure time, whether this is feasible in practice is a different question altogether.
From an early age it has been systematically drummed into the UK population that work is and will always be intrinsically linked to success and fulfilment, which goes some way to explaining why The Independent reports that generally work makes us “healthier and happier”. Therefore, by this logic, “the route to health and happiness lies with the perpetuation of work, not with its reduction”. Furthermore, a shorter working week in favour of a longer weekend would come at the expense of national consumption, which would lead to an economic slump and the potential for each household to be worse-off financially as a result.
A compelling argument for one side of the dispute, but it could be said that the other side of the coin is equally justified.
According to David Spencer of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), his case for why we should be working less “could provide a route to a better [overall] standard of life, including a better quality of work life”. In what could be seen as backwards logic, Spencer also argues that extended leisure time and reduced working hours would force workers to be more creative and forward-thinking during work time, thus making them more productive for longer but across a shorter space of time—thus, “reducing work time, in this sense, can be as much about realising the intrinsic rewards of work as reducing its burdensome quality”.
He further elongates his argument by decrying economists’ protestations that a working-time reduction will amount to insurmountable costs for businesses and subsequent job losses, reasoning that “shorter work hours may actually be more productive if they increase the morale and motivation of workers, [so] in practice we could achieve the same standard of living with fewer hours of work”. The Independent certainly seems to affirm Spencer’s mind-set, providing ample examples of studies that show the cost of longer working hours, including “lower physical and mental health, [as well as] adding to the risk of having a stroke, coronary heart disease and the development of type-2 diabetes”.
The West African republic of Gambia, led by its innovative President Yahya Jammeh has certainly embraced these arguments, being one of the only countries in the world to fully embrace a three-day weekend for its public sector working population. Jammeh is a very vocal advocate of his forward-thinking initiative, which launched on February 1st 2013, claiming that the weekend beginning on a Friday “encourages Gambia’s large Muslim population to spend more time praying, socialising, and farming”.
Whichever side of the fence you currently sit on regarding the 3-day weekend argument probably depends on your employment status—employees would most likely relish the opportunity to reduce the work/life balance in their favour, whilst small- to medium-sized business owners would probably begrudge the idea of having to pay equivalent wages for less time spent at work.
However, whether the three-day weekend in place of the traditional two-day weekend will come to pass in the UK is probably very far from reality at this point, so for the time being the UK population may just have to be content with a nice elongated weekend to commemorate the Easter celebrations.