Scenes from Kauai

Just in time for Columbus Day, Alex Williams, coauthor of Inventing the Future, has a piece in Quartz explaining how we could fight climate change by shifting to a four-day workweek:

Imagine if, rather than a few times a year, we had a three-day weekend every week. This isn’t just a nice idea. Beyond the possibilities for leisure, three-day weekends might also be one of the easiest steps we could take to radically reduce our environmental impact—and future-proof our economy….

With a four-day week, huge amounts of commuting to and from work could be avoided, and electricity used running an office could be saved. At a point when we need to massively cut back our carbon outputs, instituting a three-day weekend could be the simplest and most elegant way to make our economy more environmentally friendly.

There are a couple older studies (Williams cites a 2006 study comparing American and European energy usage, and a 2009 study that models the environmental footprint of working hours) that suggest a pretty clear correlation between reductions in working hours and energy consumption– not to mention the benefits that come from spending less time stuck in traffic, having more time for leisure, etc. And this 2009 article by Ewan Kingston points out the long history of work-time reduction schemes in labor and their connection to environmental concerns. So this is an idea with a long pedigree.