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New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern’s suggestion that employers consider a four-day working week has found favour with Kildare Cllr, Chris Pender. The measures are aimed at implementing flexible working options as a way to boost tourism and help employees address persistent work/life balance issues.

“We’ve learned a lot as a result of the measures implemented because of Covid19. We can see that while working from home may not suit everyone, more time at home certainly gives people more time to spend with their families. There have been steep learning curves over the last few weeks, but we are now in a better position to understand the nature of working from home in a productive economy”

Speaking about his work during lockdown, Cllr Pender said that “many of my constituents have been talking about the fact they’re having family dinners, playing with the kids in the back garden or even simply going for a walk as a family. Things that for too long, we have either paid little attention to or have taken for granted. The commute to work was the only time people got to think about their own lives, and that isn’t a great reflection on society”

Suggestions and discussions of a four-day workweek have taken place for quite some time. However, that decision and conversation is something that needs to be taking place with employers and employees. Cllr Pender supports the Forsa Unions call for greater exploration of the idea

“We need to keep all the benefits working from home has brought, including cleaner air, more time to spend with family, a freeing up of time from commuting while helping businesses stay afloat. We must be bold with our approach to the “New Normal,” and right now is an opportunity for a massive reset. More importantly, we need to do this, together, as a society”

It’s also important to look at a four-day work week from a health perspective or, more specifically, a mental health perspective. Over the years, many studies have shown the impact of work-related stress not only on the family home but also on productivity in the workplace. According to the ESRI, between 2010 and 2015, the number of Irish workers experiencing one or more stress reaction soared from 21% to 38%.

“We need to change the idea that working long hours is good for productivity, challenge the worst excesses of the ‘work-first, always-on’ culture, and champion the importance of spending time with family, leisure time, caring work, and the ability to engage with our communities. People need to have the ability to step away from work, and the reality is that what was merely won’t work.” said Cllr Pender

20th May 2020

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