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The 4 Day Week

How the flexible work revolution can increase productivity, profitability, and wellbeing, and help create a sustainable future

By Andrew Barnes with Stephanie Jones
  • Read in 16 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 10 key ideas
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The 4 Day Week by Andrew Barnes with Stephanie Jones

The 4 Day Week shows us a better way of working – one in which employees are able to maintain flexibility, preserve their well-being, and increase productivity. By avoiding all the pitfalls of the precarious gig economy and relieving the stresses that we’re inflicting on the planet, the four-day week is the future of work. 

Key idea 1 of 10

The way millions are employed in the twenty-first century has to change.

If you listen to Bruce Springsteen’s lyrics, you’ll be transported back to an era of heavy industry – sweat and toil in some Midwestern lumber yard or steel factory. 

Though industrial work was hard, workers knew where they stood. They clocked in and clocked out at a definite time. They had a contract. If they were lucky, they got sick pay and a pension. 

How many of us can say the same today? Many of us work jobs that don’t provide even the most basic security.

The key message in this blink is: The way millions are employed in the twenty-first century has to change.

With the advent of the gig economy, companies are no longer obligated to provide these basic guarantees. And though, theoretically, a gig contract provides freedom and flexibility for the employee, the reality is often a precarious existence. That’s because many in the gig economy are categorized as freelancers even if they appear to work full-time for their employers. 

When you’re a freelancer, your employer doesn’t have to provide things like holiday pay or a pension scheme. It also means that you’re readily expendable, and companies don’t need to offer you redundancy pay. If you make the smallest mistake – like, say, a gig-contract courier arriving a few moments late with a package – you’re liable to be fired on the spot. 

Overall, this amounts to an awful lot of stress for the modern precarious worker. Cumulatively, this employment situation can have terrible effects on the individual and society as a whole.

In fact, this instability is making us ill. Because gig-economy employees and those in other forms of temporary work mostly communicate with their workplaces via the internet, they have an “always-on” mentality. They’re always on call. So the distinction between labor time and free time vanishes. Unsurprisingly, without time to unwind properly or to organize important routines – say, eating healthily or exercising – we become more susceptible to stress and illness. 

The problem is exacerbated by an ever-rising cost of living. As many workers can’t afford to live near their workplaces, they often have to commute early in the morning and late at night on crowded public transport. Naturally, they’re more likely to get run down or catch colds or flu. 

So what does this mean for the company that employs these workers? Well, employees who are overstressed or ill are prone to mistakes and absenteeism. Eventually, this kind of employment model kills productivity and becomes a drain on the organization itself. 

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