Flexible working

A shorter working week

What happened to the dream of working less? Sonia Sodha investigates the four-day week.
Throughout the first half of the 20th century, the working week gradually got shorter and shorter. As technological advances powered economic growth, workers reaped the gains not just in the form of higher pay, but more leisure time. The economist John Maynard Keynes predicted we'd eventually all be working a 15-hour week. Even in the 1970s the expectation that 8 hour days would be reduced to 6 was widely held across the political spectrum. But this all ground to a halt in the 1980s. 
 
In this edition of Analysis Sonia Sodha explores the great leisure mystery: whatever happened to this dream of working less? And why is the idea of a 4-day working week gaining traction on the political left in Britain? What would a society that ditches the long-hours culture, and re-embraces the leisure dream look like, and is it really possible to achieve this without increasing inequality between the haves and have-nots of the labour market?

Are you a competitive sitter?

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Matt Farquarson who, along with his wife Anna Whitehouse, runs the Flex Appeal campaign calling for flexible working to be the norm, says: "It doesn't take a massive change to have a big impact."

"We seem to be in an environmenet of competitive sitting and presenteeism in a lot of work places."

"People find it very difficult to give up the idea that to do your job, you have to be sat under a certain bit of strip lighting and a certain bit of laminated MDF at certain fixed times.

He argues that flexible working should replace fixed working hours.

"A lot of our working hours - our working day - is still based on the broad structure that was set up around the industrial revolution and people find it very difficult to move away from that."

If we did, he said, there would be a big shift in terms of the business and societal benefits.

He said it made the biggest impact for small companies because it made it easier to attract talent.

What do you think? Email: bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk

Words like 'drive and ambition' put off women

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Helen Whately introduced a bill in Parliament this week saying it shouldn't be down to individuals to put in flexible working requests.

Sophie Timms, director of corporate Affairs at insurer Zurich UK, told Wake Up To Money about moves by her company to make all its full-time positions available on a flexible basis.

The company says this has led to a 45% rise applications from women for senior management roles since it was introduced in March.

It's "absolutely incredible what one small nudge can do" and it has not led to increased costs because of an increase in productivity and employee motivation.

Nine-to-five working is "no longer relevant". "What we're seeing is society moving in line [with] where we're going in terms of being a 24-7, always on world," she said.

Job adverts are being changed, as words that appeal to both men and women are different, she says. "If you take out some of the words like drive and ambition it just softens the adverts," she said.

Flexible work for all?

Could the five day, 40-hour week soon be a thing of the past?
Could the five day, 40-hour week soon be a thing of the past? Here in the UK, a law has been proposed to make flexible working the norm. The measure is being backed by the husband and wife team of Anna Whitehouse and Matt Farquharson - better known by their social media names of Mother and Papa Pukka. 

Photo: Campaigner Matt Farquharson with UK MP Helen Whately, who proposed the flexible working bill. Credit: Anna Whitehouse