Jenny was recently interviewed on Sky News on the topic, here’s a video transcription of the interview or you can watch the clip here
Think about working four days a week. Well that’s the suggestion from the Green Party, who said the proposal could even be included in their 2020 Manifesto. Well joining us to discuss this is Tim Campbell, who is a Recruitment Head at Alexander Mann Solutions and he thinks it’s a bad idea, and Executive Career Coach, Jenny Garrett, who joins us in the studio and you think it’s actually the way forward Jenny.
JOURNALIST: Tim, I’m going to start with you. So how would you, how would your firm feel with, about the idea of a four-day working week?
TIM: Well I think it’s a welcome conversation starter to have a look at what does work actually entails, and for many people the assumption from this report is going to be that work is a bad thing. Thankfully, we work a number of people at Alexander Mann Solutions and a number of clients who actually enjoy coming to work. And what we are more focused on is bringing flexibility into the workplace so people can decide the hours when they work and the locations they work. The advances in technology mean that we can work from anywhere now in terms of whether you are at home, from a coffee shop or actually in an office base. So just to focus on hours doesn’t automatically mean that things are going to become more productive.
JOURNALIST: I mean Jenny, when you look at the UK and how we work here; we work the longest hours, or one of the longest hours compared to the rest of Europe. Is what Tim saying meshing out with you people actually like that we enjoy working longer hours.
JENNY: I think the idea of flexibility makes sense. I’m not sure about people enjoying working longer hours and organisations demanding more and more of you. And the fact is, we’re going to have to work much longer now, you know. Retirement is not going to come when it used to and I think actually being able to work flexibly until you retire is much more important. So I think flexible hours are important. I don’t think saying, “Okay everyone, stop on a Thursday and we have this long weekend, Britain’s closed Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” will ever work for us. So, but I do think the Green Party is quite, is interesting to make these sort of ideas, put them out there, Utopian world when actually, you know, in reality, you know, actually putting into practice might be quite difficult.
JOURNALIST: I think, do you, do you think the idea then of imposing this idea of flexibility on companies, on firms, is that a good way forward? I mean considering that we are now getting ready to leave the, the EU, we might need people to actually put in a little, a few more working hours to make sure that we’re not going to be affected negatively as far as the economy is concerned. Is that the idea of coming in and telling companies how they need to have their workers work for them. Is, is that a good way to go?
JENNY: I do think it is a good way to go but we’d have to remember there are lots of people who have five jobs and there are lots of people who have no jobs and there are people who are finding it really hard to make ends meet and people who are doing really well and this could be a way of evening things out a little bit. And actually ensuring some people who were not getting on to the, the career ladder, given an opportunity to get in there.
JOURNALIST: I mean Tim, you mentioned earlier that the idea that people actually like working long hours, it’s part of their job, it’s what they do. Let me just put something to you that was carried out, a poll that was carried out by the New Economics Foundation through the Think Tank. And it found that working a shorter week, when they looked at individuals and it actually led to lower unemployment because it redistributed paid and unpaid work more evenly. It led to better well-being, people cared for each other more, it, this decreased entrenched inequalities, even, even reduced on carbon emissions. I don’t know how that happened, but essentially they found that people who worked less hours, ultimately they had a better living, better standard of living.
TIM: Well by those statistics we should just go and lie on a beach and be fantastic (laughter) there is no worries at all! Is there? No but in all seriousness I definitely understand with regards to if people are travelling less more it can have an impact on the climate. So I kind of understand why the Green Party are focusing and that backed up by the report statistics you just talked about. However, if we really want to talk about climate change, I much prefer the Green Party’s talk about reducing, intake of meat or the meat production industry having a focus on that, doing some really hard stuff. Anybody who has seen a documentary called ‘Cowspiracy’ would know about the impact of meat production on our environment. But let’s focus on the specific thing around work. For me, work is changing rapidly. We know about automation and the digitization of work. For example, I’m sitting in a lovely studio with automatic cameras, etcetera. So the, the reality of most people’s work is going to change drastically for the next five or ten years. And though businesses are focusing on the creative or thinking economy, they are really having to think about how do we motivate people in the best possible way, and one aspect of that is offering flexibility as I’ve talked about beforehand. But I think we need to be talking much broader if we’re going to have a proper conversation about work, about what does work look like. We’re only hearing reports of a universal wage coming around the corner because most of us won’t have to do the same mundane task roles because computers or technology will take those over. I much rather the Green Party or other parties be talking about that and its impact on my children and them coming in to work, rather than worrying about four days into five.
JOURNALIST: You say that but you mentioned that the number of people you know working very long hours and they are at risk of burning out and that ultimately will reduce productivity. And if we’re looking at women in the workplace, as example, women are more likely to want to take maternity leave and they want to change the type of work, the way they work once they have children and there are companies, there’s a conversation that won’t be had in any of those areas.
TIM: No! I think you, you raised a really good point about the gender equality of work environment and the reliance that’s happened previously on women taking care of most of the childcare responsibilities and I think yes, definitely we should have very sensible conversation about more flexible working environment for those who are responsible for our childcare but that’s a much bigger, wider quality issue. My thing is that if we want the UK to be a more productive, com, country, then having flexible working is one of the points to talk about but also let’s think about the things that make us productive in the first place. Our focus on the financial industry or service-based economy, we should be getting much more support from government and other organisations to actually propel that as a thing that we’re proud of and making sure our education system is supporting our young people to come into the workforce with skills that are going to be required.
JOURNALIST: Okay, everybody quickly! Jenny it’s interesting he’s talking about the financial industry. There are industries where you can’t really work less hours. You’ve got to put in the hours because, because of the nature of role. As you said the financial industry also, I mean the NHS and interestingly, over the weekend, there was talk about introducing duvet days to teachers to try and get, to try to recruit more teachers. Is, is this something that you could see work in places like the financial industry or you know, healthcare?
JENNY: I think it could work anywhere actually. I think it’s down to making a choice and most jobs can be shared. You know, and I think there is possibility for much more flexible ways of doing things. I do think that the Green Party are on to something in that actually organisations don’t change unless they’re forced to and you know if we have more transparency about the amount of hours people are actually working, perhaps then we can think differently and start to have the conversations Tim’s talking about in terms of what flexibility really looks like.
JOURNALIST: Let’s see how it goes! After everything that’s been said, I think I’m loving Tim’s idea of going out on the beach and (Inaudible7:08)
JENNY: Yes! (Laughter)
JOURNALIST: Tim, you’ve won that argument and Jenny and Tim Campbell, thank you very much for joining us this morning. Thank you!