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Worktime reduction as a solution to climate change: Five scenarios compared for the UK

Reducing working hours in an economy has been discussed as a policy which may have benefits in achieving particular economic, social and environmental goals. This study proposes five different scenarios to reduce the working hours of full-time employees by 20% with the aim of cutting greenhouse gas emissions: a three-day weekend, a free Wednesday, reduced daily hours, increased holiday entitlement and a scenario in which the time reduction is efficiently managed by companies to minimise their office space. We conceptually analyse the effects of each scenario on time use patterns through both business and worker activities, and how these might affect energy consumption in the economy. To assess which of the scenarios may be most effective in reducing carbon emissions, this analytical framework is applied as a case study for the United Kingdom. The results suggest that three of the five scenarios offer similar benefits, and are preferable to the other two, with a difference between the best and worst scenarios of 13.03 MTCO2e. The study concludes that there is a clear preference for switching to a four-day working week over other possible work-reduction policies.