How a four-day week could solve the climate crisis

What does a rise in productivity have to do with climate change?

15 Mar 2023

Office setup
Office setup

A four-day work week could see a 21% reduction in miles travelled by car.

The impact of a shorter working week would allow each employee to cut their carbon footprint by 8.6% – just by this one simple measure alone. That’s according to a new study by the BBC.

In total, a four-day week could result in a reduction of millions of tonnes of CO2. In fact, findings of various four-day week pilot schemes have been so successful, it has prompted experts to state that a shorter week is now essential to fight climate change.

So could a four-day work week be successful for your business?

Here are just some of the benefits a four-day work week could offer your business and the climate alike.

Results Of Four-Day Week Pilots (Taken From Various Studies)

22% rise in daily productivity

65% fewer sick days taken

71% reduction in feelings of burnout

60% reported it was easier to balance work and caregiving duties

39% of respondents felt ‘less stressed’ than before the pilot

48% increase in job satisfaction

64% increase in positive emotions at work

48% reduction in fatigue

Studies/stats referenced in this article:

📝 – 4 Day Week Global

📝 – BBC Future Planet

📝 – World Economic Forum

What the above statistics demonstrate is that a four-day week is breaking ground in improving many areas of job satisfaction and even productivity.

This is before you even consider the benefits on the environment!

Four Day Work Week And The Climate Emergency

During the Covid lockdowns, fewer commutes saw dramatic positive improvements in cities all over the world. Namely in terms of reduced pollution and better air quality.

Notable examples included the Venice canals which ran clear for the first time in decades, and smog which all but disappeared in cities such as London, Los Angeles and Hong Kong.

Hong Kong during Covid lockdown when the city’s air quality dramatically improved – Image by Tokyoahead at English Wikipedia.

Referring specifically to the four-day week pilot studies, and a reduced number of people commuting means reduced carbon emissions. That’s because fewer journeys are being taken, which ultimately means less emissions are generated as a result.

All of which mimics what we saw in the Covid lockdowns, yet without the same level of disruption for businesses.

Plus, there are secondary benefits of cutting commutes by 20% per week. This includes reduced congestion meaning less standing traffic and shorter journey times – all of these aspects help to reduce carbon emissions further still.

One study also found that a four-day work week would reduce the UK’s carbon emissions by 127m tonnes. This is equivalent to taking all of the UK’s privately owned cars off the road.

With so many benefits to be had in terms of reduced carbon emissions, a four-day week could prove instrumental in fighting climate change – especially if every business across the globe got on board.

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Other Reasons Why A Four-Day Week Makes Sense

Look at any pilot study for the four-day week, and you’ll be hard pushed to find any real negatives. These are studies conducted on real businesses with real employees – so they are far from empty statistics.

The climate crisis is a major reason why companies are looking to switch from a five to a four-day week.

But here are some other compelling reasons why the four-day week is turning heads.

Potential For Much Higher Revenues

business meeting four-day week

You might think ‘shorter working hours’ and ‘higher profits’ is an oxymoron.

However, research by the World Economic Forum reported companies which took part in a four-day work week trial experienced a 37.5% boost in revenue, compared with the same time last year.

The ethos here is ‘work smarter not harder’. With a shorter working week, employees must focus more in the time they do have to work. So, the likes of procrastination or even pointless meetings are being given the boot.

In a nutshell, each working day is spent more efficiently when time is suddenly precious instead of a given. Increased productivity, not to mention more engaged employees all helps to drive profits for businesses.

A Five-Day Work Week Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be

Let’s be honest. Do you put in the same amount of concentration and effort at 4pm on Friday, compared with what you did at 9am on Monday?

No, because you’re tired from a long week. Plus your thoughts are naturally on the weekend. This isn’t being a ‘bad’ employee or company founder by the way – this is simply the natural ebb and flow of the week taking its toll on us as humans.

So why do we drag out the week, when really our best ideas are probably behind us? Often, because we think we ‘should’ rather than there being any real benefit.

But as the above point has shown with regards to increased profits from a four day week, five days doesn’t necessarily mean better results, especially if your thoughts are elsewhere.

Better Work/Life Balance

Take your pick at the generational issues many of us are facing at the moment. You’d be surprised how a four-day work week could at least help in not making that thing any worse.

Here are just a few.

Unaffordable cost of childcare for working parents – at least one parent free an extra day per week due to a shorter working week (potential for 40% savings in childcare costs if both parents only work four days).

Parental guilt of working parents – more time available to spend with children or at least pick them up from school more often.

Poor physical health – more time to exercise or seek medical attention for existing conditions (plus rest from work!) due to having that extra day off.

The list really does go on and on, especially if that 5th working day can be used to combat any personal issues.

In the 4 Day Week pilot, 54% of respondents said it was easier to “balance work with household jobs – and employees were also more satisfied with their household finances and relationships.”

As a result, when employees are at work, they are more likely to be engaged and focused on the task at hand. That’s because they are less distracted with issues they previously felt unable to solve due to a heavy work schedule.

Increased Talent Retention

During the 4 Day Week pilot, resignations at the 100 companies which took part in the pilots fell by 57%. This was interpreted as a shorter working week helping to retain talent in organisations.

As we know, better employee retention means reduced hiring and onboarding costs. Plus, better consistency within the company and for customer experience in general.

So for any company wishing to retain its employees for longer, a shorter working week is a very attractive prospect. This is especially the case for any industry associated with high levels of stress or burnout.

Improved Mental Health

The 4 Day Week pilot also revealed a 43% increase in improved mental health compared with before the pilot. It noted instances of anxiety and negative emotions had also reduced.

When you think about why this is the case, it is not the simple fact that ‘people dislike their work, and a four-day week means they are working less’, rather a four-day week allows for more time to:

Catch up with friends and family

Replenish sleep


Visit the doctor or healthcare providers

Partake in hobbies or volunteer work

Recover from stressful environments

Cook healthy food (rather than order takeout)

Experience cultural attractions

Spend time in nature

All of this once again means that when employees are at work, they are more likely to feel happier and engaged, because their needs as a human are being met outside of work.

In contrast, feeling overworked, exhausted or even suffering with a chronic health problem while at work can all contribute towards poor mental health – especially if a hectic five-day week leaves little time to address these issues.

With one in four people experiencing a mental health issue each year, a four-day week could be just as instrumental in improving this statistic in addition to all the benefits on the climate.

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About the author

Rachael O'Flaherty

Content Writer

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Email marketing without the carbon footprint

The climate conscious email marketing platform. Send your first campaign today.

  • Free Email Templates

  • Smart Segmentation

  • Lead Forms

  • Automated Campaigns

  • Automatic Offsetting

  • Team Sharing

  • HTML Email Editor

  • Multi-channel Campaigns

  • Drip Campaigns

  • MailChimp Import

  • Zapier Integration

  • Powerful API