The average full-time worker in Britain works 42 hours a week - the longest hours in Europe, almost two hours more than the EU average, says a new report from the TUC. However, our output per worker per hour is worse than that of any ‘mature’ European economy except Italy.
Full-time workers in Germany work 1.8 hours a week less but are 14.6% more productive, while Danes work four hours less but are 23.5% more productive - and Denmark is often found to be the happiest country on earth. Could an extra half-day off a week bring us similar cheer?
The TUC supports moves towards a four-day week, saying the stats show shorter hours boost productivity. And Labour and the SNP are allegedly looking into four-day weeks for a future manifesto pledge. But could a four-day week really work?
Pilot studies suggest it can. One financial services company in New Zealand switched its staff to a four-day week for the same pay. Productivity rose by 20% – making up for the extra day off. A marketing company in Scotland got even better results - a 30% increase in productivity.
But it will take big companies and brave bosses to make a four-day week the new norm - and less scrupulous employers could use it as an excuse to cut pay. Since this sort of radical change is easier for startups, hopefully they’ll pave the way for mainstream companies to follow.