Work in your garden, not the office: Benefits of a four day work week

Staff at the Thorntons Budgens convenience store in North London have their  meetings on the roof, enabling workers to relax and get some fresh air.

We should be gardening instead of working on Friday, a British think-tank has claimed. The National Gardening Leave report from the New Economics Foundation demands that employers introduce a four-day week and growing areas for staff to tend.

“The four-day week has huge benefits for employers,” report author Andrew Simms told Metro. “Studies show lower absentee rates and a more motivated workforce, and the business saves money by shutting down for a day.” A trial in Utah, USA, slashed absentee rates by 14%, saving millions of dollars, while the practice has become common in Germany and the Netherlands.

The benefits for workers are more obvious with reduced stress and more free time, Simms says: “For women, especially high-level executives, a shorter week is the only way to balance work and family life.”

The report does not suggest gardening should be mandatory, but claims the activity has uniquely wide-ranging benefits including mental and physical health, community cooperation, and improving the urban environment by creating green spaces. Simms says gardening is the “new rock and roll” with a cross-demographic appeal shown by growing popularity in inner-city areas.   

The Thorntons Budgens convenience store in North London has developed a roof garden and manager Nathalie Quinn told Metro it has transformed the business. “We have our meetings on the roof and it enables us to get some fresh air, relax and see things from a different perspective,” Quinn said, adding that “we have a mixed cultural background here and it has helped us connect as a team.”

Independent economist Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, says that a four-day week is “long overdue after proven successes in Europe”, adding that it has helped unemployment. “You can hire more people on shorter hours,” he added.

However, Weisbrot does not see that growing areas will have appeal to employers: “Businesses still don’t care much about sustainability issues.”


Four-day fortune

Germany: government-introduced, subsidized three- or four-day working week in 2008. Mercedes-Benz and Daimler among the companies to use the scheme.

Holland: In all sectors, the four-day working week is common with the 10-hour day standard practice. It’s credited with reducing unemployment and a fall in depression.

Utah, USA: From the 2008 experiment, 79% of employees were happier, 63% were more productive and at least $6 million in commuting costs was saved.


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