Working fewer hours may be good for both our mental health and the health of the planet. Sociologist Alex Williams reports in The Conversation that reducing the average work week from five days to four could reduce American energy use by a whopping 20 per cent. It could also improve our mental state.
Williams is the author of Inventing the Future, which explores how new technology could change how we work. In his recent article, he pulls together several studies to argue that three-day weekends could drastically reduce energy consumption and create an economy that is more environment friendly.
Citing a 2006 study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Williams explains that instituting a three-day weekend would reduce the amount of time Americans spend commuting to work in gas-guzzling, fume-spewing cars, as well as the amount of energy used by offices to keep lights, computers, and air conditioning running all day.
He also notes that a 2015 study in Sweden found that, for workers, fewer hours not only reduced illness, but increased productivity. Overall, he claims that after reviewing numerous studies of both the environmental and the psychological impact of fewer work hours, there is substantial evidence that reducing the number of days in the work week would improve environmental and mental wellbeing without damaging productivity.
He argues, “Directing gains in economic efficiency towards increased free time and reduced energy consumption, rather than making more stuff, could create a better and more environmentally safe world.”