Several years after the publication of How to be free, the New Economics Foundation released a report called 21 hours. It was a vision of a radically different future in which people work much shorter working weeks, enabling communities to become stronger, healthier and shift towards non-materialist values, reducing carbon emissions and safeguarding natural resources. It was an attractive vision.
At the time I was working at BioRegional and I became obsessed with this idea and its potential for supporting the transition we need towards One Planet Living. This is thinking beyond just an ecological footprint within planetary thresholds, but a life full of meaning, less guided by money. I tried to work some of the concepts into my consultancy with local councils, and spent time modeling and exploring its implications on employment. Unfortunately, I was not in a position to work-up the concept much further than some spreadsheets on my desk. It did, however, inspire me to ask my employer to allow me to work a four-day week. My reasoning being that I would still get similar quantities of work done and it would enable me to develop my knowledge and career further on my extra day off. I took the pay-cut and found I was much happier, essentially having three day weekends with more space to look after myself. With my workaholic tendencies, I think it was also good for my health. It caused some envy and I appreciated that this option was not possible in many of my friend’s jobs. I recognise the privilege.
With my current job I am officially meant to work a 4.5 day week. I hardly ever stick to this and counting the hours, I usually far exceed a 5 day week. Because I love my job, I find less distinction between pleasure and work so I’m happy to put in those extra hours. However, I could still consider increasing my pay to reflect a 5 day week but I won’t. Why is that?
It’s not because I’m being stubborn about giving in to the 5 day work week. The main reason is that I like the potential that some weeks, I can take an afternoon off and run away. That’s something a 5-day per week employee can’t do.
The important task I have is to keep reminding myself and the people around me that I work a 4.5 day week – and to make sure I factor it into my timetable each week. Otherwise, I will never take that time off!