Would you want a 4 day work week?

Today was an odd day. I took the opportunity to visit a friend in Castlewellan. On the way down, most shops were closed. Ballynahinch and the other towns I drove through were very quiet. The general vibe was a bit like the days after Christmas when things are still closed. I liked it, it was a break from the usual hustle and bustle.

Some people were watching the Queen’s funeral, whereas others were just chilling or getting out for a drive or walk.

I am not very religious, but I think Sabbatarians were on to something. I am not advocating tying up the swings, but I think we all could do with more rest in our lives.

Those debates on Talk Back where some representative from the capitalist class moans about shops not being open on Sunday morning annoy me. It reduces us all to consumers, not citizens, like we can think of no better way to spend our time than traipsing around Primark or Next.

I have travelled extensively around Europe, and in most places shops are closed on Sundays, even more so than here. Unleashing my inner Presbyterianism, I would happily ban Sunday opening. I would exempt hospitality: my inner Catholic still likes a pint.

I have had my own company for over 20 years now, so I like to think I am as capitalist as the next running dog, but even I am disgusted that so much of modern life is working and shopping, rinse and repeat. From play to sport, everything has been commoditised. Every idle minute is an opportunity cost when you could be working or shopping.

All this brings me to the 4-day week. ‘Shorter’ by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang explores how many companies have found success not by working harder but by working smarter. Many companies are deciding that they get better results by working fewer hours and giving their employees more flexibility.

An upside to the pandemic is that remote work has transformed many organisations and improved the lives of most staff. That two hours you used to spend commuting each day can now be spent with your children or, if you are really lucky, a sneaky pint in your local.

The only issue is that I find it hard to relax when others are still beavering away. Clients will email and phone me and disturb my chillaxing. Would it be better on a society level if we decide to just take an extra day off? Monday or Friday are the obvious candidates. Who would not want a three day weekend?

Now I know not everyone will have the luxury of more time off. Hospitals, police, emergency services etc still need to function. But for the rest of us, does it really matter if we buy that new pair of trousers on a Tuesday rather than a Monday?

The flaw in my plan is e-commerce. The dark satanic mills of online retailers will operate 27/7. Would any politician be brave enough to say they need to close as well?

I am not expecting change anytime soon. Governments love it when the populous is working and shopping. It keeps them busy and stops them from fermenting revolution. Our entire economic system can be summed up by this classic poster from Modern Toss.

You are free human beings, not economic units of production. Fight the system. Resist the iPhone 14. Resist the Amazon daily deal. Wear the clothes you have. Buy f*ck all and go for a walk or a pint with your mates instead.

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