We are campaigning for a shorter working week for all.
Shorter working hours would help to solve many of the intertwined economic and social problems of our age, yet this issue barely features on the public or policy agenda. This website combines research, stories and analysis, to generate debate and bring together people and organisations interested in a shorter working week.
Life is short. But how many of us have too much work, and spend most of our lives rushed off our feet trying to do more than can be done, tolerating inhuman tedium, trying to remember what needs to be said to who, or worrying about meeting impossible deadlines. How many of us miss the taste of our lunch, a sunny afternoon, the need of a friend for a chat, or our children growing up, as we submit to the pressure of work? And how many others of us have not enough work, and miss the good things in life because we are panicking about paying the bills, because we feel society has left us on the scrapheap, or simply because we can’t afford enough?
And yet, while we miss so much of what makes life worth living, how much of the work we do is productive? How often do we leave work feeling we did something useful, and with the time to do it well? And how many of our organisations are really needed? We debate how to generate growth, but not what that growth is made of. We leave it to the market to decide – but is the untrammelled market supporting enough of us to fulfil enough of our potential?
What if we had a shorter working week – let’s say, to start with, a three day weekend. We would be sharing out work between us. We would have more time to look after dependents, enjoy our friends, kids and families, contribute to our communities and to watch movies or surf the web or read or cook or play football or sit in the elusive sun when it does turn up. Life would be better.
It would be better for us as a society as well. Society would be less unequal (because fewer people would be unemployed), reducing the problems of crime, mistrust and envy that our current extreme inequality generates. We would be more productive in the time we spent at work, we would lose some pointless activity, and some social issues would be eased, as people spent more time supporting their own dependents, and in their communities. The pensions crisis might be eased, as we might work fewer hours but for longer, rather than cramming all the work into earlier life to save for a time when we stop completely. And we might have more chance of tackling the issues of sustainability that are rapidly hurtling down the track.
To get to this happy place, we would need to tackle many big issues. For example, how do we make sure that everyone could have an affordable home? How do we make sure that everyone has enough to live on, even if they are in low paid work? Do we have the right balance between public and private?
It is often acknowledged that we are in economic and political crisis, yet a shorter working week is not even on the agenda as a solution. And this is not a new debate – these kinds of ideas were proposed by Keynes in the 1930s, Galbraith in the 1950s, feminists since the 1970s. But they have not taken serious hold. Surely we should at least start talking about them.
Who is running this website? Anna Thomas’s early career as a doctor (where the routine 80-hour weeks started her thinking about the importance of working hours) gave way to senior policy and campaigning roles in NGOs from Friends of the Earth to Shelter to ActionAid, where she currently job-shares as head of policy. She also recently studied economics at SOAS. Lianna Etkind is a campaigner at disability rights organisation Transport for All, recently winning a campaign for a step-free Crossrail. In 2014 she completed an MA in Community Organising at QMUL. Previously, she co-founded the successful Brighton Living Wage campaign. They are working closely in partnership with New Economics Foundation.
Whether you are already working a shorter work, want to campaign for a shorter working week for all, or an organisation interested in this agenda, join us!