What climate benefits does a four-day working week have? I was a bit surprised to stumble across it among proposed ways to mitigate climate change listed in a recent BBC article (it didn't go into details on that, though). How does it help, other than reducing commuting (though, remote working, public transportation seem to offer comparable benefits)?

1 Answer 1


There are two effects of a four-day working week.

  1. Reduced productivity. A four-day working week has approximately 80% the amount of working hours of a five-day working week.
  2. Reduced transportation. A four-day working week has approximately 80% the transportation of a five-day working week.

Where I live, about 20% of emissions are from transportation. If you reduce 20% from that, it's 4% only. So the reduced transportation needs reduce emissions by 4%. However, the reduced productivity is more significant. You can expect to receive only 80% of your current salary, so the reduced consumption means you can't afford to consume as much as you used to and 16% consumption emissions are reduced.

However, in reality the situation is a bit more complex. Not all extra salary goes to consumption. Some of it goes to investments, and today most investors prefer green investments. So for example a four-day working week could mean people can no longer afford to fund wind power plants and electric cars, and in that case a four-day working week can actually be more harmful to environment as opposed to 20% less harmful.

So in reality the full effects are very difficult to model and depend on how people use the extra salary from a five-day working week.

  • 3
    RE: Reduced productivity... and the reduced productivity is more significant. You may want to research these claims, which are likely false. There exists substantial research indicating that people are more productive in a four-day work week, despite working fewer hours during the week. In other words, the less time people spend working, the more productive they are per hour worked. I don't have all the studies in front of me right now, but instead of expecting 80% productivity from a 4-day work week, employers can expect significantly over 100% total productivity. Nov 2, 2021 at 6:41
  • Specific links: bbc.com/news/business-57724779 (Iceland) smh.com.au/business/workplace/… (NZ)
    – Móż
    Nov 2, 2021 at 6:50
  • So sadly we may get the same consumption (measured in money) or even more (with more spare time people may pollute more per dollar spent), with fewer working hours for the same pay. In my limited experience WFH means shorter working hours, same pay, higher productivity (measured by output) but less enagement (measured by time spent in meetings)
    – Móż
    Nov 2, 2021 at 6:53
  • It surprises me how people assume working less/getting salary cut will make things unaffordable. Working less will lead (if you are individual with healthy attitude) naturally eating less, driving less, clothing less, washing less and so on. All in all it is good for everything and everybody. People don’t have an idea what is the cost of those white collar jobs and jobs in general.
    – Sofiko
    Nov 5, 2021 at 8:42

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