Imagine the Working Week

Now that many of us have learned to work from home could we continue that trend to unlock the numerous benefits it holds? Less time commuting. Lower emissions. More time with loved ones. More time for hobbies. Greater work life balance. Less stress and more. If we can get all our work done and live without workplace interactions maybe we could work from home regularly. Even for some of our working days.

Of course working from home doesn’t suit everyone or every job so it’s something to be evaluated on a case by case basis.

There are options for people who must attend an office or workplace 5 days a week. There is plenty of evidence to show that people are just as, if not more, productive during a 4 day week. A greater work life balance leads to a better sense of well being which in turn leads to better productivity at work. Four Day Week Ireland is a campaign advocating for a gradual, steady, managed transition to a shorter working week for all workers, in the private and public sectors. Our national response to Covid19 completely bypassed the “gradual, steady, managed transition to a shorter working week” for many of us.

The coalition says there are three routes to achieving the four-day week:

  1. Good business leadership, combined with market and labour market factors, which will increase the attraction of the four-day week to more and more companies;
  2. The reduction of working time, without loss of pay or productivity, through negotiations between management and unions in organisations where collective bargaining takes place;
  3. Government as a large employer leading by example, supporting private companies that introduce reduced working time, and legislating where appropriate.

Four Day Week Ireland is a campaign coalition of trade unions, businesses, environmentalists, women’s rights and civil society organisations, academics, health practitioners and global advocates. The following excerpt is from the *Forsa website relating to the campaign launch on September 26th 2019.

The launch was addressed by Andrew Barnes, founder of New Zealand trustee services company Perpetual Guardian, which won international acclaim when it introduced a four-day week for its 250 staff last year. He said: “The evidence is in. A productivity-focused workplace can achieve the outcome of working less hours. I encourage business to look at the initiative for themselves. It is clear to me this is the future of work.”

Margaret Cox, CEO of the Galway-based recruitment company ICE, which has also successfully introduced a four-day week, said staff had welcomed the change, which had also been good for her business. “One of our teams has a slogan for their four working days: Focused, energized and happy,” she said.

Kevin Callinan, general secretary of Fórsa, the first Irish trade union to back the four-day week, said working time had emerged as a central issue in international debates about the future of work. “We want to secure a fairer share of the benefits of economic growth and technological advances for all workers in all sectors of the economy. This would also have the benefit of sharing paid work as technology reduces its availability,” he said.

Orla O’Connor, Director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) said a four-day working week would be particularly beneficial to women, allowing better distribution of caring responsibilities between mothers and fathers. “While women currently do the majority of care work, reduced working time will allow men to spend more time with their families and take on more caring responsibilities. This can remove barriers to women achieving senior positions in work and allow them to take on more training opportunities,” she said.

Oisín Coghlan, Director of Friends of the Earth, said a four-day week was a win-win for workers and the environment. “It cuts the pollution from commuting and increases the wellbeing of working people, their families and their communities. It’s a great example of how the transition to a zero-pollution future is not a cost to the economy but rather an opportunity to value what really matters to us,” he said.

The full text of the speech by **Kevin Callinan at today’s launch event is available here.

Now that we have lived through unexpected changes to our working weeks, can we adopt some of those changes to address the climate and biodiversity emergencies? To build well being and resilience in our communities? We must not return to business as usual. Follow up with Four Day Week Ireland, start the conversation with colleagues now and get that ball rolling.

Theresa O’Donohoe

25 March 2020

*Fórsa represents over 80,000 members from within the public service, as well as the commercial sector, state agencies, some private companies and in the community and voluntary sector.

The union was formed after the members of IMPACT, the Civil, Public and Services Union (CPSU), and the Public Service Executive Union (PSEU) voted overwhelmingly to amalgamate the three organisations in November 2017.

Fórsa is the second largest union on the island of Ireland and by far the largest trade union voice in the Irish civil and public service.

**Kevin Callinan is General Secretary, Fórsa

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