How Shortening the Work Week Can Help Reduce Carbon Emissions

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

A new study by Philipp Frey of Autonomy, a UK think tank, “The Ecological Limits of Work: on carbon emissions, carbon budgets and working time,” has garnered significant press coverage, but the headlines (“Much shorter working weeks needed to tackle climate crisis – study“, or “Climate crisis: UK should dramatically cut working hours to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, study says“, or “PAY DAY Working a NINE-HOUR WEEK could be the key to saving us all, experts say“) have tended to frame the study as recommending management innovations like the four-day week — here the Sun, correctly (!), busts the frame with “NINE-HOUR” — rather than working through the more radical thinking behind Frey’s study. First, I will consider shorter working days and weeks as a managment technique, and show that such reforms do have beneficial effects for the cllimate crisis, and then I’ll look at what I think Frey’s study is really showing.

Considering the four-day week as a management technique, here’s a successful case study. Perpetual Guardian of New Zealand:

What if a strategy existed to increase employee engagement and productivity, resulting in higher customer satisfaction and increased revenue? What if that strategy required implementing a four-day workweek while paying employees as if they were working five? According to Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand financial services company that implemented the four-day week, it not only works but it also has the potential to become the new working standard.

The process Perpetual Guardian undertook to design, test and eventually implement this four-day model is documented in a white paper published earlier this year. “Most of the process improvements came from staff managing themselves differently,” said Lockhart. “It’s about becoming more aware of how they were spending their time.”

On the day Barnes’ PR firm arranged for him to share the research results on local morning television, his phone rang for the rest of the day, according to Lockhart. Barnes shared how employee engagement scores had significantly increased while stress levels dropped–all while employees were maintaining productivity levels in four work days instead of five. “It started to travel around the world, as people woke up. We got media requests from Sydney, Europe and then the U.S.,” said Lockhart. “We gave up counting how many media stories we’ve had when we got to 4,500.” The four-day week has now become Barnes’ full-time job. “We don’t sell the program; it is a philanthropic effort and we’ve had people from all over the world asking to learn more.”

(Here’s another “knowledge economy” company, Portcullis — Perpetual Guardian is a financial services company — that also went to a four-day week, with success, and apparently with the same desire to share the good news.) So, the idea is to leave pay levels the same, decrease time at work, and maintain productivity with process improvements. It seems that the four-day week can indeed benefit the climate:

But when [the State of Utah] implemented the shorter workweek [for state workers in 2008], the goal was to cut energy use by 20 percent and save the state money — and those big savings haven’t come through yet.

So far, energy use has been reduced — but only by 13 percent. Each of Utah’s 900 government buildings is unique. State energy managers have to figure out how to turn everything off on Fridays — especially the massive heating and air conditioning units… But the good news, for everybody, is that the reduction in Friday commuters and the energy savings in buildings have cut down the carbon dioxide pumped into the local air.

Unfortunately, Utah abandoned the effort after three years, mostly (it seems) because citizens wanted the state offices open five days a week, but also because the energy targets weren’t being met (but never mind the “externalities,” like less pollution due to less commuting.)

Now, to be fair, there seems to be a little too much hand-waving in the relationship between working hours and carbon emissions. For example, in this CEPR study from 2006, “Are Shorter Work Hours Good for the Environment? A Comparison of U.S. and European Energy Consumption“:

However, the relationship between energy consumption and work hours could be more complicated. For example, workers (or families) with less leisure time may dry their laundry by machine rather than drying it on a clothesline. They may not take the time to walk or bicycle to work, but rather drive. These behavioral changes in response to increased work hours would cause energy efficiency to decline as work hours increased. On the other hand, they may have their clothes professionally laundered, or take a cab. While these decisions would increase energy consumption, they would also increase hours worked in the economy, so the effect on this measure of energy efficiency is indeterminate. Finally, they may pay professionals to paint their homes rather than do it themselves. While this would consume the same amount of much energy, it would increase hours worked, thereby increasing this measure of energy efficiency. Of course, as people leave their homes to work, energy savings at home might balance the extra energy consumed at work. Any net effect of work hours on energy consumption is not easy to predict.

It does seem reasonable that hacking commute time down by 20% would save a lot of energy. And it also seems reasonable that something would be saved on HVAC, etc., as Utah showed. As for consumption, I don’t know. I did a good deal of painting around the house when I didn’t have any money. But that doesn’t mean I’d take up the practice again if I had more leisure time. That said, rigor had not improved much when CEPR did a second study, in 2013:

A number of studies (e.g. Knight et al. 2012, Rosnick and Weisbrot 2006) have found that shorter work hours are associated with lower greenhouse gas emissions and therefore less global climate change. The relationship between these two variables is complex and not clearly understood, but it is understandable that lowering levels of consumption, holding everything else constant, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

When you think about it, it’s pretty amazing that we know more about the relationship between the Antarctic Ice sheet (say) and the climate crisis than we know about the workplace and the climate crisis. But that is where we are. The 2013 CEPR paper concludes:

This paper estimates the impact on climate change of reducing work hours over the rest of the century by an annual average of 0.5 percent. It finds that such a change in work hours would eliminate about one-quarter to one-half of the global warming that is not already locked in (i.e. warming that would be caused by 1990 levels of greenhouse gas concentrations already in the atmosphere).

Numbers which might be worth thinking about as a tranche in a multileveled approach to reducing carbon emisisons, but might not be, in the absence of more rigorous modeling. (For example, people might drive recreationally in their newly freed-up leisure, so we really wouldn’t be hacking 20% out of drive time.)

With that, let’s turn to the Autonomy study (which is well worth reading in full). Here is the key portion (I’m using an image because there are charts and an equation):

Summarizing, working backwards from a sustainable GDP per capita, we can come to a sustainable level of hours worked to produce that GDP; and it turns out that level is a lot lower than today’s norms. It’s as if Frey, rather than setting a thermostat for comfort level, set it for the sustainable amount of carbon emitted, and as it turns out, the house is pretty cold. The Sun was right: “NINE HOURS.” Think about that…. Frey writes:

I would thus argue that the climate crisis calls for an unprecedented decrease in the economic activity that causes GHG emissions, and this confronts us with, to adapt Paul Lafargue’s phrase, the ‘necessity to be lazy’. If ecological sustainability requires an overall decrease in material consumption, a vast expansion in terms of leisure time and thus an increase in “time prosperity” would be less of a luxury and more of an urgency.

I’m not sure about that, because I won’t be able to get the debt collectors off my back with my new-found “time prosperity.” From CEPR’s 2013 paper:

It is worth noting that the pursuit of reduced work hours as a policy alternative would be much more difficult in an economy where inequality is high and/or growing. In the United States, for example, just under two-thirds of all income gains from 1973–2007 went to the top 1 percent of households. In this type of economy, the majority of workers would have to take an absolute reduction in their living standards in order to work less. The analysis in this paper assumes that the gains from productivity growth will be more broadly shared in the future, as they have been in the past.

Of course, the robots and automation might come to the rescue; but perhaps not. Perhaps the Chinese will crack AI and remove labor from the production of commodities altogether, as David Harvey says somewhere. But perhaps not.

* * *

In summary, it seems clear that the management technique of cutting back work hours has merit from the climate perspective and should be pursued (albeit with some added rigor on causality). It also seems clear, as Frey urges, that capital accumulation — that is, after all, what goes on in the workplace — must slow and/or change (toward investment that takes the labor out of production, and especially away from financialization). That’s a heavier lift, but the clarity of Frey’s exposition makes the lift slightly less heavy.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

50 comments

  1. Ian Ollmann Ph.D.

    Frustratingly, this article seems to omit common sense approaches to increasing productivity per unit CO2. Transitioning the electric grid and transportation off of fossil fuels seems like a start. I suspect that solar panels and telecommuting will sell well if the alternative is poverty or severe limits on workforce.

    Surely experts get this? Why must we be so dense?

    Reply
    1. Salty

      Increasing productivity per co2 can help but wont solve the problem since that would require “decoupling”.

      Look up the work of Sanwichman aka. Tom Walker for more. He posts on angrybear and you can probably find him with google.

      He has been on the working hours beat for years now. He will probably be quite amused that capitalists are just now figuring this out after literal centuries of ignorance.

      Reply
    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Frustratingly, this article seems to omit common sense approaches to increasing productivity

      Did you read the title? That’s not the topic of the article. You’re familiar with the reviewer who gave thumbs down to a book because it was about penguins when he wanted it to be about owls?

      Reply
  2. Oregoncharles

    A sure way to reduce carbon emissions is to shrink the economy. Since this will happen eventually anyway, if only because of global heating and the rising seas, it might be good idea to get a head start when we can be selective about it. Not that this will be a popular idea.

    And Mr. Ollmann: those approaches get most of the attention, and so far are accomplishing very little. This is about an approach that has had much less attention. In reality, we have to do it all, and then some.

    Reply
    1. d

      Course as we shrink the economy, we will also need to get rid of population (people). So how do we do that with alarming every one?

      Reply
  3. Oregoncharles

    “Perhaps the Chinese will crack AI and remove labor from the production of commodities altogether,”
    Why on earth would the most populous country on Earth do that? People are their chief resource, and not that cheap to feed, either.

    And I don’t think the use of robots or AI instead of people reduces energy consumption, beyond reducing commuting, surely a minor factor. Quite the contrary, they run on electricity, while people run on food. Since we’re planning (I hope) to feed and house those people anyway, it makes more sense to substitute labor for capital and (mostly fossil) energy. That means returning to a craft economy.

    That’s a massive change in the way we operate, but so is anything at all that addresses the problem.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Why on earth would the most populous country on Earth do that

      Well, taking the labor out of the production of commodities would also mean an immense increase in leisure time, right? No more alienation of labor, etc.?

      Reply
      1. Henry Moon Pie

        I think a lot of that available time will need to go to food production as climate change and resource depletion (soil) reduce output using current methods.

        “Grow your own” will become a necessity as supply interruptions, crop failures and general supply decline make food more expensive and its supply less reliable.

        Reply
        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Agreed. I should have thought of that, since growing my own food (as opposed to painting the house) is not only something I would do, but something I have done.

          I have a hard time getting my arms around the CEPR studies because they are all about consumption, when to me it’s plain as day that the issue is about production i.e., in a capitalist system, about slowing the rate of capital accumulation (brute force) or diverting it by putting it under democratic control, where those with actual skin — their own, and their children’s, and their grandchildren’s — in the game have some say in the matter.

          Reply
          1. Susan the other`

            Thinking here about Tverberg’s prediction re fossil fuel that we are damned if we do or if we don’t. Her point was that if we conserve too much it will tip the economy into a depression and we will have dysfunctional social structures and won’t be able to cope. Not that we don’t already have overwhelming dysfunction. This 9-hour work week solution might sound radical, but it is the opposite – it smooths the edges, maintaining a minimum of work, aka productivity, in a world that must cut back it’s excessive lifestyle asap. “Working backward from a sustainable GDP” is probably the only way we can do this. This way we cut out all the rat racing and keep what is necessary.

            Reply
            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              I’ve always thought of getting to a C reduction by piling up tranches until we meet a goal: So much C saved by the soil, so much by forests, so much by BECCS, so much by the 4-day week….

              But perhaps it would, indeed, make more sense to look at the workplace and see what forms of capital accumulation we should slow or forgo. “Leave it in the ground” is in fact a form of this. I do feel very strongly that approaching matters from the consumption side is just wrong, and leads to ridiculous moralizing campaigns against plastic straws, for example.

              Reply
  4. Krystyn Walentka

    How’s this idea, buy less crap, do less stuff, economy tanks, CO2 emissions go down, people get laid off, zero day work week.

    We have to face the facts that these little fixes will fix nothing. I am out at a cafe right now listening to two women plan a trip to Alaska. Five others are staring at laptops, and I am using a cell phone to send a message out to people who will not do this simple thing that needs to be done: DO NOTHING.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      What does this sound like to you:

      I would thus argue that the climate crisis calls for an unprecedented decrease in the economic activity that causes GHG emissions, and this confronts us with, to adapt Paul Lafargue’s phrase, the ‘necessity to be lazy’. If ecological sustainability requires an overall decrease in material consumption, a vast expansion in terms of leisure time and thus an increase in “time prosperity” would be less of a luxury and more of an urgency.

      Did you even bother to read the piece, or are you only reacting to the headline?

      Reply
      1. Krystyn Walentka

        Sorry, as I am typing this on a small old iPhone my patience for prose is limiting.

        I did read the article and it was overly complicated and all that was needed was that one paragraph. So maybe the headline (since that is usually only what people read) should have read; “Want to stop climate change? Do nothing!”

        Very click baity but to the point.

        So my problem want not with the message (mostly) but with its delivery. Few the luxury of time to read this article and as a result people think action is beyond their reach. No only do people have this power to do nothing, most people want to do nothing. And we should start shaming people for doing things as well, for giving their time and money to corporations.

        So again, sorry, just thought a more simple delivery is in order.

        Reply
        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          It wasn’t an easy topic to write, especially when two different concepts were hidden under the term “work week.”

          That said, NC is full of long-form, technical writing on climate, finance, and even politics. If the long form is not congenial to you, perhaps the best thing to do is not simply to react to the headline, kneejerk fashion, but to skip the post and find something more congenial. I do note that there are more comments below from readers who actually read the post.

          NOTE Fascinating to see how the cellphone is gradually crapifying reading and writing. Perhaps what I should really be doing is simplifying further by using a few emojis.

          Reply
          1. Krystyn Walentka

            I read the price twice, and I find it unwelcoming that instead of assuming I read the article and had a criticism, you essentially call me lazy by assuming I did not take the time to read it.

            So my critique is not about my preference, but about effectiveness. A four day work week depends on the corporation to grant it to us. Why do that when we can take it?

            Also, I am poor and cannot afford a computer so this is phone is my only choice. I guess I am the new deplorable? Maybe I am just doing the best I can. So I found the emoji comment insulting.

            Reply
            1. The Prescription Was Clear

              A poor person owning an obsolete iPhone, bizzare.

              So, you opted for a:

              poorly compatible solution (thank you Apple)
              – that comes with high price accesories
              – and (probably) costs more than used computer

              Said used PC would have the massive PC ecosystem advantage (what doesn’t work with a PC?), be upgreadable on the cheap if necessary, and hey I don’t know how much you paid for the iPhone, but the cheapest PC round here is free by charity, or around 70 EUR by companies that re-sell used corporate desktops (comes with warranty, delivery, etc., it’s as if you were buying new).

              So, maybe consider a PC? Would make it easier for you to store and manage data, plus it would be much easier to read and write on, trust me.

              Reply
          2. Aloha

            Wow Lambert,
            I have to say that I am surprised at your nasty response to another persons comment here. Yes, you presented a very well thought out article (which I’m sure took a considerable amount of time) stated your opinion and then opened it up for discussion. But jeeez that is the risk you take in running this blog! And WOW again for telling someone that obviously their intelligence level is so much lower than yours and perhaps others on here that she should go elsewhere.
            I used to enjoy NC and now not so much. Some of the insulting responses sent from you and Susan really surprise me sometimes and I don’t enjoy this site now so I won’t be supporting it anymore.

            Reply
  5. Cal2

    All this technoblather.

    What’s not mentioned, a four day work week means 8 round trips per week between office and home, versus 10 with a five day work week.

    That’s how the majority of commuters get to work.

    Liquid fuel usage in cars is more important than the number of hours that Leed Certified office lights are on or not.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > What’s not mentioned, a four day work week means 8 round trips per week between office and home, versus 10 with a five day work week.

      I wrote:

      It does seem reasonable that hacking commute time down by 20% would save a lot of energy.

      Did anybody commenting today actually read the post? And of all the complicated, vital topic, too!

      Reply
      1. Krystyn Walentka

        I think what you are hearing from our responses is the delivery was poor. We have all heard this overly technical stuff before and we are fatigued. It take control out of our hands and once again gives it to the technocrats. WE have the capability, and all we have to do is Nothing.

        Reply
        1. Joe Well

          For me, the implication of this post is that a reduction in the work week should be a goal of both the environmental and labor movements.

          Reply
  6. Temporarily Sane

    I doubt there will be any real action taken until the first climate catastrophe hits…and even then it will likely be every person for themselves with those that command the fewest resources and are least able to “save” themselves thrown under the bus or trampled underfoot. The reaction to hurricane Katrina and the other big storms of the 21st century are instructive and should give everyone a good idea how things will likely play out.

    Until then it will be denial and green capitalist “solutions” that deliberately stoke the illusion that global warming can be mitigated by changing our buying habits, no sacrifice or major lifestyle changes necessary. Unless you are poor or live in the global south, in which case you will be scarified.

    The 0.1% have got it all worked out and if you are a self-starter and a goto type of person who takes personal responsibility and consistently makes excellent and innovative life and investment choices…you will be okay. If not, you only have yourself to blame and should have gotten sick less often and picked a wealthier and more genetically resilient family to be born into. Deplorability is a choice and if you blew it, don’t expect any sympathy or empathy from those who chose wisely, worked hard and reaped the rewards. This is America and everybody gets what they deserve.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Plausible. OTOH, the saying is “pessimism of the intelligence, optimism of the will,” and not “pessimism of the intelligence, pessimism of the will.”

      Reply
  7. PlutoniumKun

    On the more positive side, Green parties all over Europe had unprecedentedly good elections this weekend in the Euro parliamentary vote. A Green topped the poll in my city for the Euro Parliament, a Green (first time running) was the first local Councillor to be elected, and the Greens got more votes than the Tories in the UK. The Greens may have the balance of power in the European parliament, the existing centrist block (centre right and centre left) will need their votes.

    Reply
  8. SJ

    “NRW-Großstädte wählen Grün”
    The big cities of the old industrial west (Düsseldorf, Cologne) have voted overwhelmingly for the Green party.
    A beautiful thing to see.
    The german you-tuber Rezo and another 80 of his ilk produced videos in the last week lambasting the Christian Democrats and the social democrats.
    The times they are a changin’

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      To drag this thread even more off-topic than it already is:

      I can’t remember where I heard this, but I think the US Greens will run Howie Hawkins this time, to my mind a far superior candidate to Jill Stein, because Hawkins is a politician (about power) and Stein is an activist (about virtue). Plus Hawkins ran a good campaign for governor (and I didn’t know Ursula Rozum was his campaign manager! If she really managed the campaign — I ask only because I don’t have details on the campaign — she did a good job. Rozum is a hot ticket, a little bit like an AOC before there was an AOC).

      Reply
    2. salvo

      I am not so sure, the German Green are a mainstream party which has incorporated the neoliberal consensus as the state parties CDU/CSU and SPD. They have already been in a coalition government together with the spd during Schröders federal government and supported all the anti-labor neoliberal legislation from that time (Hartz 4, pension reforms and so on). On the states level (Länder), they have been and are in coalition governments both with the CDU and SPD, and again they have acted according the dominating neoliberal consensus. There is nothing left-wing in their politics.
      While the Greens have made big gains, it is not because they are an alternative to the German neoliberal model but because they represent it, they just put a green etiquette onto it. That’s why they are a darling of the establishment media.
      On the other hand, the left, die Linke, has lost.

      Reply
  9. Jesper

    I am not sure whether or not a reduction of working time would result in increased inequality for the majority of workers. The workers whose work is to go to meetings 20-30h per week might lose out, the workers who actually do work 35-40h per week might get salary increases as there might be more competition for the workers doing actual work.
    Spending time at work and actually doing something worthwhile is not the same thing. I’ve come across more than a few people whose main activity at work is to ensure that they keep their job, the higher the salary the more time is spent on keeping colleagues (competitors) from taking the job. Office-politics takes time. Producing (meaningless) reports takes time. Micro-management takes time. Activitities to get morale up due to the demoralizing effects of: office-politics, the production of reports and the micro-management takes time.

    Reply
  10. Steve

    Seems again that at the root the fewer people doing things is always where things must resolve. There is no solution at this point better than voluntary population reduction.

    Reply
      1. d

        I do agree with the falling life expectancy. But is the falling birth rates about longer life’s. Maybe because the odds of living to is much better than it used to be, course it might also be economically driven too. Course with life being shorter, we may get more births

        Reply
  11. MJ

    Sometime around 1980, the environmental engineering firm where I worked decided to try a 4-day week during the summer months. In addition, to reducing the impacts of commuting, the reasoning went, the firm’s employees would be able to enjoy 3-day weekends (one could choose to take off Friday or Monday). To maintain the 40-hour work week we were expected to work 10-hour days.

    I personally found that after working four 10-hour days in a row I was so worn out by the time the weekend came that I had to spend a day just resting to recover.

    Another disadvantage that eventually became apparent was that one might find that another employee with whom you needed to collaborate had only 3 workdays in common.

    The plan was scrapped after two summers.

    Reply
    1. PlutoniumKun

      I don’t know how widespread it is, but in Ireland most nurses work 3-day weeks, doing 13 hour shifts. This is popular with many nurses as it helps them fit it in with family responsibilities, and it is theoretically more efficient as it cuts down on the number of patient ‘handovers’, which is a major source of medical errors.

      The research so far as I know is that it is counter productive due to exhaustion, most of the nurses say they spend a full day sleeping to make up for it. But the Unions are strongly in favour and have resisted attempts to move to 8 hour shifts. So far as I know, most research indicates that in most tasks people simply can’t work productively for more than 7 or 8 hours a day.

      Reply
      1. Mark Gisleson

        As one who did not plan well for retirement, I got to work one of those four-day weeks for Mattel a couple years ago (and simply for mentioning that I’m probably violating my NDA). Since I was walking to work I don’t think it cut down my carbon emissions very much.

        Here’s how ten-hour shifts translate into blue collar:

        • Your breaks don’t change. Still two fifteen-minute breaks (in authorized break areas only: MBAs will NOT allow you to sit in your work area), and still half an hour unpaid time for lunch (in authorized break areas only!)

        * You’re doing physical work and usually work of a restricted nature (only using part of your body). That extra two hours without rest (or sitting) does more damage to your body than the first eight hours did.

        * All the union numbers show greatly increased accidents resulting from overtime, which MBAs ‘solve’ in always astonishingly original and utterly nonproductive if not ridiculous ways.

        Unfair to MBAs? Not really. Time-study personnel and actuaries also deserve shout outs for their contributions to blue collar workplace hell. If you haven’t done the job, you don’t understand the job. This is even more true for manual labor where idiocy is rewarded with a lifetime of back pain.

        As for the toll of that ten-hour shift at Mattel? It was hard not to notice how incredibly fit the long-time workers were. Also not extremely big. Most looked like roofers or wait staff: light on their feet. I trained for warehouse work by walking 3-4 miles a day and climbing a ski hill (in summer). At the end of my first shift my legs hurt so bad I went home and just slept until it was time to go to work again. My three-day weekend was spent trying to rehab myself and catch up on other stuff.

        I’ve worked in factories designed to run six days a week. You can work physically demanding jobs 48 hours a week for months without excessive wear or fatigue. Working six days weeks is not inherently dehabilitating. One twelve-hour shift (standard factory overtime is an extra half shift) disrupts your entire week. I saw guys in key positions do five straight 12-hour shifts. No one ever did that more than once if only because you’d eventually injure yourself.

        And then you have to get home. In all honesty, I drive better after four hours in a bar than I did after a twelve-hour factory shift.

        What works for folks in business suits does not necessarily work for the people who make your stuff and provide you with customer service.

        Reply
        1. tegnost

          I think the idea of the post is that if the corp hired you for 4 days, 6 hrs a day, and paid the same as your current 40, that productivity gains would wash out the increased labor cost, while reducing commute and also I would imagine workplace and vehicle use costs, even if corp had hire more workers at the increased cost/lower hrs. The savings to energy consumption in the workplace being replaced by individual consumption outside of the workplace may nix the environmental benefit, however.

          Reply
          1. The Prescription Was Clear

            Yeah it’s a larpurlar sector* thing, they don’t work, they just pile up costs by going to and from “work,” needing an office building and keeping the lights (etc., etc.,) on. It’s well known that they could all work less (or not at all), be happier, and consume far, far, less resources.

            In the real sector however (i.e. factories, agro and infrastructure) any reduction in work hours and days must either come from higher work intensity (or longer illegal and unpaid hours), more workforce employed or accepting lower output.

            Now, it is possible to do it, but we need to move to a sustainable manufacture model – purchase (build, construct) once, use forever (or at least a few decades).

            *note: larpurlar: from french “ l’art pour l’art ” – art for art’s sake.
            Larpurlar jobs (work, companies or whole industries) are jobs that have no purpose other than to give the employee something to waste time with and a salary (i.e. bulls*it jobs), they can be considered a crypto version of UBI (except for recipients only, so, not actually univeral, and with huge natural resources cost).

            Reply
  12. southern appalachian

    seems a conclusion, rationally and/or logically derived, with radical implications. Guess that is where we are at the moment. One line of thought radiating out from this conclusion, since I’m close to it, the enormous effort to maintain income levels across generations through higher education. Have to realign the entire industry, transitioning from credentialing back again to research.

    A lot of the time these things are a bit too much of a stretch for my imagination – only way I can do it is to recall things from the past. Need for citizen science, as you often remark – so more time by Walden Pond.

    Reply
  13. Susan the other`

    The second-best aspect of this 9-hour work week is the opportunity it will provide for people to get together. Casually at first, no doubt. Then maybe neighborhood projects. Like community gardening. Like crafting. Like ingenious energy saving devices and methods that do not pollute the planet, using local resources. It creates permission to be individuals again. After all, cooperation is our one great claim to fame, as a species. It’s been an awful perversion to suppress it and usurp it like we have done with modern social improvement methods. Time saving methods. Subjecting the most important things, leisure and creativity, to some synthetic idea of economic “efficiency” in order to turn everything into capital so it can be “reinvested” in an equally pointless manner.

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  14. Pat

    As someone who spent years working in workplaces with unconventional work hours, let me say that longer hours/fewer days is not the answer. Not even for climate change. Barring massive changes in corporate culture all that means is that two shifts will be doing the work of three.

    I do not see this limiting the things that are detrimental to the climate. It could be helpful for the working class (regardless of color or gender) if benefits were required for part time work regardless as in you get them if you work 2 hours a week or 50 hours a week, and minimum wage was adequate for to provide all essentials plus enough extra for savings and a discretionary budget in 32 hours or better 24 hours a week. As I said this might not solve the climate problem but with a corporate culture that had to keep jobs in the country AND actually pay and benefit people, I think a great many other problems might lessen a fair number of other problems we are facing.

    Mind you that is only help (despair and depression and addiction and falling life expectancy and crumbling infrastructure and crappy education will be addressed with not only a better economy for the general population, but time and will and hard work. Climate change needs even more.

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