Work Less. Play More. Save The Planet.

How working a 4 day week could create a healthier balance for all

Laurence McCahill
Jul 18 · 3 min read

This is part of a series of posts about how living a simpler life can make a positive impact on ourselves, our communities and the environment — read the intro post


Sweden are doing it.

Forward-thinking companies are doing it.

And now climate scientists are championing it as a way to save the planet.

Could it be true that working less hours could give us more — and in turn play a part in reversing the current trajectory we’re on?

Apparently so, says Tom Bailey, head of sustainable consumption, C40:

“One of the best things you can do to address climate change is go down to a four-day working week. This would take some of the heat out of our ever-expanding economies, reduce our capacity and urge to consume, and create space to live a more balanced life. I plan to do this in the near future. If it means I’m earning a bit less and spending a bit less, but I’ve got a bit more time on my hands, then that’s great.”

The 9 hour week?

A detailed study from think tank Autonomy has gone even further.

Their research shows that people across Europe will need to work drastically fewer hours to avoid disastrous climate heating unless there is a radical decarbonising of the economy.

Similar reductions were found to be necessary in Sweden and Germany.

The findings are based on OECD and UN data on greenhouse gas emissions per industry in the three countries. It found that at current carbon levels, all three would require a drastic reduction in working hours as well as urgent measures to decarbonise the economy to prevent climate breakdown.

Will Stronge, the director of Autonomy explains:

“Becoming a green, sustainable society will require a number of strategies — a shorter working week being just one of them. This paper and the other nascent research in the field should give us plenty of food for thought when we consider how urgent a Green New Deal is and what it should look like.”

Making business sense

Whilst a 9 hour week is unrealistic (unless you’re Tim Ferris), moving to a 4 day week is within the reach of most.

Various companies have shown that a shorter working week can increase productivity, the wellbeing of workers and also decrease staff turnover — which can be a huge cost burden to companies.

Whilst not within the reach of everyone, for those with the autonomy to choose how they work — whether you run your own business or are freelance — it makes perfect sense to explore how you can work smarter, not harder.

Slowing down

On a personal level I’ve been working a shorter working week for the last few months and already feeling the benefit — not a 4 day week as such, but much shorter days.

It’s allowed me space to:

  • Slow down and feel more present
  • Solve problems and come up with better ideas
  • Spend more quality time with my kids
  • Create more e.g writing, cooking etc
  • Make more conscious choices that cause less harm to the planet
  • Be way more productive when I’m back working

From my experience working less might mean less money (but not always), but it can give us so much more:

What might working less give you?


Want a shorter week? Start with Four Day August or Wednesday Off-ternoon.

⛺️ This September 150 entrepreneurs and changemakers will gather on a 200 acre farm in the UK to discuss this and other burning issues around the future of work, business and life on this planet — more at www.happystartupsummer.camp. One of the 20+ workshops will be Design Yourself Out of Your Business by Dirk Bischof, founder of Hatch Enterprise

The Happy Startup School

Build a life and business rich with purpose

Laurence McCahill

Written by

Co-founder The Happy Startup School. Building a global community of heart-shaped entrepreneurs and leaders, one event at a time.

The Happy Startup School

Build a life and business rich with purpose

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