Your 4-day work week questions, answered

I am releasing a platform as part of my leadership campaign because I believe it is crucial that the next leader of the BC Green Party have a clear vision. We are in a pivotal time in our province’s history. If we want to grow our party, people need to know that we have a plan and are ready to lead. After the vote in September, our new leader needs to be able to hit the ground running with solid ideas for how to build a more equitable, sustainable and resilient province. 

One of my policies that has attracted the most attention is the idea of a four-day work week. It’s really exciting to see how this idea has captured peoples’ imaginations and is bringing new supporters into the Party. We have received a lot of questions about how this would work in BC. Below I have answered the most common questions about my policy.

What exactly is your four-day work week policy?

I announced the following commitment as part of my leadership platform to build a resilient, innovative economy in February 2020: 

In consultation with business, labour and other stakeholders, explore policies to improve work-life balance and health and wellbeing for workers, such as a shorter work week for full-time workers and modernized labour laws for independent contract workers.

Why do you want to explore a four-day work week?

Because the evidence shows it could improve health and wellbeing, increase productivity, create more jobs for our post-COVID-19 recovery, and reduce carbon emissions. An exciting new report from Liverpool also anticipates it would improve gender equality

I believe people should have a better work-life balance. Many people are working longer hours, but they aren’t getting more productive and their wages after inflation are essentially flat. Widespread adoption of smartphones means that work often creeps into our private lives. This has increased as more people have begun working from home during COVID-19. 

Meanwhile, burnout and stress is costing the Canadian economy up to $50 billion per year. The nature of work has changed a lot since the five-day work week was first implemented about 100 years ago. We need to keep up with the times. 

Microsoft Japan did a pilot of a 4 day work week and found that workers were healthier, happier and 40% more productive. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, an author who has written a book on shorter work weeks and has studied hundreds of organizations have implemented them sums it up this way: “Employees are healthier and use fewer sick days because they have more time to exercise, cook better food, and take better care of themselves. Their work-life balance improves, they’re more focused and creative, and they’re less likely to burn out.” I have met with Alex several times and am drawing on his expertise as I continue my work on this issue. You can watch a Facebook live that I did with Alex and my colleague MLA Adam Olsen here. 

During COVID-19, the idea of a four-day work week has been raised by leaders like Jacinda Ardern as a way to help stimulate domestic tourism. There is also evidence that a shorter work week could help create more jobs. In fact, the five day work week was solidified during the Great Depression to open up more employment

How would you implement a four-day work week in BC?

I would use incentives to encourage employers to adopt a shorter work week. Since businesses and organisations have diverse needs, I do not believe a top-down, mandated four-day work week is the best approach for BC.

The rationale for providing government incentives is that the evidence shows that shorter work weeks lead to many outcomes that are beneficial to society, such as improved physical and mental health and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Our provincial government spends the vast majority of our budget on healthcare. As the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Investing in initiatives that will keep people healthy and well, rather than only providing expensive treatment when they are already sick, is just plain common sense.  

In addition, encouraging more widespread adoption of a shorter work week could help drive BC’s innovative economy. One of the biggest challenges our tech sector faces is attracting and retaining talent. Encouraging more BC companies to provide a better work-life balance will help attract and retain talent and help build a sustainable, clean, innovative economy. When more businesses and organisations make this switch, they will be able to share ideas and best practices for how to most effectively implement a shorter work week with one another, creating a cluster of innovation that will help make our province a world leader. 

Do you think people should work fewer hours overall, or the same amount of hours as they do now but spread across fewer days? Will people still get paid the same?

The evidence shows that many types of workers can maintain, and even increase, their productivity by working fewer hours overall. I believe this means their salaries should be maintained, if not also increased! Nowadays for many workers, it’s about the quality of the work they produce, not how many hours they spend at work. Fine-tuning these details is why my policy is to consult with business, labour and other stakeholders as a first step towards implementing a shorter work week. 

BC is struggling with an affordability crisis. No one should have to worry that they won’t be able to pay their bills because the way we work is changing. With this in mind, I also have a range of other policies to improve affordability, like universal early childhood education, child care, and livable wages for all. 

I want to know more. 

Listen to my interview with Lynda Steele on CKNW here.

Sign and share my petition to explore a four-day work week in BC here

Read why David Suzuki supports a shorter work week and has had one at his Foundation for decades here.

If you have any further questions, please contact my campaign co-manager Christina at [email protected].