Culture time for a shorter work week

Published on September 1st, 2014 | by Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

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Would a Shorter Work Week Lead to More Sustainable Lives? [Video]

time for a shorter work week

Image credit: Shutterstock

It’s Labor Day, and while I”m mostly looking for ways to relax, I’m also thinking about the connection between our working lives and our environmental impact (because that’s the kind of things I do when I relax!). We’ve touched on this concept before, but the TED talk below takes an even more radical approach to shortening the work week as a way to address natural resource consumption… as well as deal with elements of social and economic sustainability.

Anna Coote first proposed this concept in a 2010 report for the New Economics Foundation; she gave the talk below at TEDxGhent in 2012. She makes a compelling case for a gradual shift to a 21-hour work week as an answer  (though not a “silver bullet,” nor the only answer ) for overconsumption, work-related stress, underemployment, and family dysfunction… in addition to climate change and other environmental challenges.

Take a few minutes (OK, twenty) to listen to Coote’s argument, and then let us know what you think. Feel free to wait until later in the week, US readers – it is a holiday, after all! Happy Labor Day!




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About the Author

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg is the founder and editor of sustainablog. You can keep up with all of his writing at Facebook, and at



  • BtrLivg_BtrWorld

    Thank you for this post. I’ve just found my way to your blog and I look forward to exploring it more. I watch Ted Talks but hadn’t come across this one.

    It’s interesting there are several books that speak on this topic – the one that comes to mind first is Affluenza – as I recall they indicate that industrialists expected the work week would be decreased but many industrialist were opposed to the idea – some for religious reasons, idle hands kind of thing..others thought that if workers had free time they would make their own items and not need to purchase them. One of the advocates for a shorter work was Kellogg and according to the book may employees stayed on a shorter (30 hour?) week for a long time, but eventually they got employees off of the short work week as part of having health insurance..interestingly, some have suggested that the affordable care act might lead many people to reduce their work hours, particularly those that might semi-retire but work full time to maintain health insurance.

    I’m also reminded of another fabulous book – Your Money or Your Life..which basically suggests that most of us work Monday through Friday to pay debts that we create in our off-time due to lack of time and happiness during the work week.

    Lastly, I believe it was Tim Ferris who said, ‘how can it be that all jobs need 40 hours to be completed?” Ariel

    • http://sustainablog.org Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

      Thanks for making these connections, Ariel… lots of interesting thoughts out there on why we choose to work the way we do.

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