The coronavirus and its associated lockdown has brought many downsides. But are there opportunities too?
Many people have been enjoying the birdsong and clean air brought on by the huge reduction in traffic. Much of this reduction has come from people who are not working, because they have been furloughed or, worse, lost their jobs. But some of it has come about because folk who would normally travel during rush hour to get to an office job are now working from home. Some companies are already wondering this might become permanent? Is office culture now a redundant hang-over from pre-internet times? Another upside, along with reduced carbon emissions from commutes, is that city-centre office space could be repurposed to provide desperately needed housing.
Some would-be home-workers are struggling, because home currently has one fixture that was lacking in the office - dependent children. And schools are desperately worried about taking them back off their parents hands because they can't see how to make social-distancing work with the numbers. But there is a solution. Mandate a maximum three-day working week. That way, two -parent families will be able to work two full time jobs, as well as lavishing constant focussed care on their children. It would limit transmission of the virus, increase work life balance, aid gender equality, improve quality of life for children and improve the employment rate during the inevitable recession.
Radical thinkers have been calling for a shortened working week even before the new quarantine reality dawned. Technology was supposed to free us of unnecessary labour and free up leisure time. People work better, think better, when they have time to rest and reflect. It's finally time to access the benefits of mechanisation and get over the habits formed in the industrial revolution, to get off the treadmill of our own making. Rush hour traffic and 9-5 hours no longer make sense in the globalised, virtually connected marketplace. Five day weeks, farming out the kids and living on takeaway food isn't how anyone wants to live.
Let's transition to a mandatory three-day working week to get jobs for all and time for life.