Should we all be working three days a week?

Would shorter working hours increase our productivity? (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Would shorter working hours increase our productivity? (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) - Credit: AP

Flexibility is good – not just in bendy bodies, but in bendy lifestyles too.

Three days a week is the most efficient way of working for the over-40s according to an Australian university research. More than three days and the brain starts creaking a bit, so you might as well go home and do the garden.

A three-day week? Why not? Just think of the joy of getting to Wednesday teatime and shouting 'The weekend starts here!'

Apparently, during the three-day week in the 1970s winter of discontent, production actually went up. Workers made more effort in the days when they were actually at work and the difference showed.

Other research last year found that people do just as much work in six hours as they do in eight – which is why some firms have shortened the working day.


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Once upon a time, of course we were told that we were all going to have a three-day week. When computers did so much of the work, we would have endless leisure time…

Well, we all know how that worked out as we'll have to carry on working into our seventies.

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The trouble with a job is that it messes up so many of your days. For most people there are five days a week when it's tricky to do much else other than work. A weekend is rarely enough time to tend to your life and to have fun.

It's why I'm lucky to work for myself. Burning the midnight oil seems a fair price for a leisurely lunch with friends.

Back in the long-gone days when I had proper jobs, one involved working four days of 10-hour shifts, followed by three days off. That's what I call a proper weekend.

Younger son has done even better. He works three days of 12-hour shifts, followed by three days off. True, it means he's often working when his wife or friends are free, but he has a ridiculous amount of free time.

We keep being told there's a revolution in working hours – job sharing, working from home, easing to retirement, flexible working – but still most people lucky enough to have a job are doing eight hours a day, five days a week, without anyone even thinking about whether it's the best way of working or not.

In the meantime, there are plenty of over-60s and even over-50s, who would love to work just three days a week. And plenty of youngsters desperate to start their working lives, for whom three days would be a great beginning.

A bit of bendy thinking could solve all sorts of problems at once. It's not rocket science…

•The views above are those of Sharon Griffiths. Read more from our columnists each day in the EDP.

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