Professor John Ashton, a prominent NHS director of public health, has called for a four-day work week on the grounds that it will reduce the nation’s blood pressure, create more time for public service and time with friends, and lower unemployment. He says:
When you look at the way we lead our lives, the stress that people are under, the pressure on time and sickness absence, [work-related] mental health is clearly a major issue. We should be moving towards a four-day week because the problem we have in the world of work is you’ve got a proportion of the population who are working too hard and a proportion that haven’t got jobs. We’ve got a maldistribution of work. The lunch-hour has gone; people just have a sandwich at their desk and carry on working.
This is excellent news and a rare example of someone of such establishment renown speaking like this:
We need a four-day week so that people can enjoy their lives, have more time with their families, and maybe reduce high blood pressure because people might start exercising on that extra day […] It would mean that people might smile more and be happier, and improve general health.
Would Brits stick to a four-day work week? Pleasingly, 89% of people who responded to the Guardian’s reader survey said they would welcome a four-day week. Perhaps the desire for maximum busyness is not as widespread as it might sometimes seem.