UK's Green Party backs four-day work week

The science suggests every weekend should be a long one for the good of our health...

The Green Party has announced plans to investigate the possibility of moving UK workers to a three-day weekend.

The reduced work week forms a major part of the "radical" new policies the British political party is examining as it hopes to address the reality of modern working practices.

Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, told its Spring Conference over the weekend:

"We need a political movement that redistributes both money and power. One that redefines the relationship between work and life.

"One that embraces the future. Pioneering and forward-facing. A future better balance between what we own and who we are – and more focused on what genuinely makes us happier.

"A future of radically innovation and creative disruption. That embraces a three-day weekend and a universal basic income."

UK Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas speak at the Green Party Spring Conference at the ACC in Liverpool. Picture by: Peter Byrne/PA Wire/PA Images

The Green Party has argued that productivity drops when people are exhausted and wants to remedy a situation where "people are working ever more hours" and "getting ever more stressed", leading to an increase in ill health and mental health issues.

Lucas concluded:

"What we want to do is take a step back and think, what is the purpose of the economy? What kind of country do we want to be? And do we really want a future where all of us are trying to work even harder, taking our work home with us and working evenings and weekends."

When it comes to high-profile experimentation with a four-day work week, Amazon has led the charge of late.

Last summer, the online retail giant announced that it was hiring a small number of employees in the US who would work 30 hours per week, Monday to Thursday.

Their "core hours" were between just 10am and 2pm on each of those days, with the remainder comprising "flex work hours" and, while their pay was reduced to reflect the reduced hours, they would still receive full benefits packages.

The likes of Uniqlo and Google have also tested the waters. The companies have yet to report on the success of such policies.

Health benefits

There is clear evidence that such an approach can have a dramatically positive effect on people's health. 

First of all, the sedentary office experience where workers are stuck at a desk is not good for the heart. In 2015, world-renowned medical journal The Lancet published a review of numerous health research papers, claiming an undeniable link exists between heart disease and overwork in more than 600,000 employees across the Western world.

Those working 55 hours per week show a 13% increase in cases of heart disease than those who put in a 40-hour week, the study showed. Worse still, the figure rose to 33% when it came to risk of suffering a stroke.

It also isn’t tied solely to white-collar employees, either; the paper showed manual workers have a 30% chance of developing Type-2 Diabetes compared to peers in similar employment who work fewer than 40 hours per week.

Increased productivity

Employers worried that business will take a hit may not have true cause for concern.

In 2009, the Harvard Business Review tested the effect on productivity at a Boston consultancy firm.

For five months, a group of employees were subjected to a four-day week, required to completely switch off for one mid-week day.

The company’s clients reported an improvement in the services provided by those who had taken a third day off, compared to the ones powering through a typical 50-hour week.