How a 4-day week helps beat an energy crunch

We urgently need to save energy. How about working fewer hours, like 4 days a week? Studies show that working less can reduce our hunger for energy. But this only works under certain conditions.

Will the energy crisis come soon with the gas crisis? Less and less gas flows to us from Russia. The development of alternative energy sources has been criminally neglected for decades, especially in Austria. Our great energy hunger can no longer be satiated any time soon. There is a high risk that emergency plans to come into effect soon that ration electricity and heating. The motto is: save energy. It is probably not enough to turn the heat down or put a lid on the pot. You have to memorize everywhere.

So why not during business hours, too? How about driving to the office, factory, store, or workshop just four days a week? Working shorter hours can help you use less energy. Obviously 4 days a week leads to fewer trips to work. This saves energy. Says Katja Honecke, Vice President of Energy and Climate Protection in Germany Oko Institute.

How much energy does confinement provide on Friday?

The other levers, she tells MOMENT.at, are “the electricity and heating needed to sit comfortably in the office”. Hünecke is Co-author of a study series On behalf of the German Federal Environment Agency. She wondered if shorter working hours would help save energy and combat the climate crisis. It seems obvious: if the business is not up and running on one day of the week, the machines will stand still. The lamp and printer are off, and the coffee machine stays cold.

But this is where it gets complicated. If you don’t drink coffee at work, you can drink it at home or in a coffee shop. If you have a three-day weekend, you can use the time for a longer trip. Then the energy saved on the go is wasted again. Those who have more time to consume may also consume more. Studies show that it is by no means certain that working less necessarily saves energy.

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There are studies that suggest just that. Study 2020 by British research center Autonomy Research Energy consumption comparison On working days however on weekends and public holidays. The result: if less work is done, energy consumption is reduced. “If we replace a working day with a weekend, it could potentially reduce our energy consumption for that day by 10 percent.” This does not take into account the energy saved through reduced mobility.

If you work less, you won’t have the same amount of energy

The University of Massachusetts Institute of Political Economy Research compared data on working hours and carbon emissions for 29 member countries Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in the years 1970 to 2007. It has been shown that “countries with shorter working hours tend to have lower environmental impacts and carbon dioxide emissions”, According to the researchers. The emission of fewer greenhouse gases means, above all, less energy consumption.

CEPR Center for Economic and Political Research checked in 2006, How would energy consumption and CO2 emissions change if American citizens could reduce long working hours to European levels. The result: “The employee will have a total of seven weeks of free time. The US will use about 20 percent less energy.”

But it is not that easy. In the end, the deciding factor in determining whether less work also means less energy consumption is: the level of income. “If wages are not fully compensated by shorter working hours, energy consumption and emissions are greatly reduced,” says Hünecke. But: “With full pay compensation, almost nothing happened. Then people will consume as much as before.”

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The social dilemma of reducing working time

The Öko study distinguishes between these scenarios: work less and get full pay. Reduced working hours for less pay. In plain language, the result is: lower income leads to lower consumption and this saves energy. organization too low growth Switzerland stopped at one Policy Summary It recently found that: “Shorter hours without wage compensation would reduce people’s purchasing power, and thus the environmental impacts associated with consumption.”

Researchers at the Oko Institute on Katja Honecke see “a social dilemma of environmentally promising reductions in working hours”. Because: “Lack of wage compensation leads to financial barriers and thus can increase the risk of poverty, especially in low-wage groups and in precarious job resumes (often: women),” according to their study.

This can’t be the approach, and neither is Honik. Her suggestion: “If we reduce working hours, then please make a socially acceptable wage adjustment for low-income people.” Families with a good income would do less damage to their income. “They don’t mind reducing hours,” Hünecke says.

The richer you get, the more energy is wasted

It is known that more income and wealth leads to more consumption that is harmful to the climate and has the opposite opposite. Keywords Kylie Jenner and 17 minute trip Their own plane: The lifestyle of the richest one percent of the world’s population produces twice as much greenhouse gases as the bottom 50 percent combined. In Europe, the richest 1 percent of households produce 11 times more carbon dioxide per capita than those in the bottom half.

If we want to save energy in the long term and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, something has to happen “especially among the high-income groups,” says one Study University of Edinburgh. And in order to really save energy while reducing the working time, it also depends on how the free time is used. According to the Edinburgh study, working fewer hours “allows more time to pursue well-being in ways that are less consuming but more time consuming.”

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This means, for example: Instead of heating energy-intensive frozen foods due to time constraints, fresh, local ingredients can be overcooked. Instead of driving, people are more likely to use bicycles. Only: Are enough people doing it to also help save energy and reduce CO2 emissions? “Consumption patterns change when you have more free time,” says Katja Honecki.

If you have more time, there is no need to consume

Instead of throwing out a broken washer and buying a new one, “see if you can fix it,” she says. In times of the dual crises of impending energy shortages and the development of climate catastrophe, says Hünecke, we must “understand that we have to change our behaviour”. Compromise is an uncommon keyword “but without it you won’t work”.

In her study, she and her colleagues argued that “only social change toward sustainable use of time can lead to environmental relief.” Reducing working hours’ by itself cannot lead to the desired change. However, implementation of sustainable lifestyles can certainly be promoted. So working shorter hours gives you at least a chance to save energy.

Anyone who can use more free time does not have to use more. You can also lie on the grass – while the computer in the office remains closed.

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