Working with communities is an integral element of my job. The neighbourhood I am currently engaged with is made up of around 1000 households. While I am responsible for project managing the initiative, much of the energy needed to sustain the undertaking will come from within the community. So far the response from residents has been good, and we have a group of 40-60 people who regularly turn up to events. However, this number still only accounts for a small percentage of the neighbourhood – why is it so difficult to engage the majority?
The above is an example of why our current work culture does not allow for a fully functioning society. We have become caught in the forty plus hour, five-day-week mentality. As a result, we are becoming increasingly stressed, spending less time with our families, and ignoring those causes which need our help. We are â€œdoingâ€ less outside of our jobs. Our communities desperately require us to play an active role, to go that extra mile, but the work week leaves us with little to give. This is an incredible waste. How many lives have been improved, natural environments saved, ideas realized, books written, and life-long relationships forged as a result of time spent away from â€œworkâ€?
If a selection of large forward-thinking companies took it upon themselves to introduce a 4-day work week, the societal shift toward an improved life/work balance could begin. This process would then require governments to slowly formalise the shift and make the necessary economic adjustments. Beyond the above benefits of a four day work week, we would also experience a reduction in emissions from commuting, both a cost and energy saving in lighting/heating office buildings, and not to mention the financial benefit that would be felt by the retail, tourist and service industries. There are economic counter-arguments to this position, but the four day week does not seek to fly in the face of reality – rather, it simply looks to readdress the life/work balance.
In the meantime, many companies and organizations have opportunities for employees to take part in flexible working – for example, a condensed work week. Perhaps you own a company? Have you thought about offering employees a half day off once a week, fortnight or month? We need to change our culture, and general mindset, in order to realise the opportunities that are available to us. It wonâ€™t come about in time to help with my project in North London, and widespread legislation will not be arriving anytime soon, but it is something we should all strive towards. Let’s just not take thirty years going about it.