Great innovations often follow great adversity. Disasters–whether man-made (war, hazardous chemical spills, climate change) or natural (pandemics, typhoons, famine)–present global issues that must be overcome. For instance, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to rapid advancement in mRNA vaccination and other pharmaceutical drugs that have changed the medical industry in a very short time. On a more anthropological level, research has been re-energized into the effects of isolation, overwork and a work-life imbalance on overall health.
Perhaps the next great change, apart from rapid AI development and integration of course, is an overhaul of work culture. In recent history, a five-day work week consisting of 40+ hours a week, not including commute time, has been the accepted norm in most industries. However, our climate cannot continue to support this practice as the transportation required to travel to and from work and the consumption of resources to make products to support that lifestyle is a significant contributor to green-house gas emissions. To reduce our carbon footprint, finding a new “normal” work culture can help.
According to Prof. Tommy Wiedmann —sustainability researcher in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UNSW, Australia —climate change and sustainability experts are proposing a method to achieve a global society no longer dependent on fossil fuel called “managed degrowth”. This refers to a deliberate and controlled reduction of the endless growth seen in developed economies that consumes massive amounts of resources and produces just as much waste. In essence, a reduction in excessive work leads to a reduction in overconsumption which leads to a reduction in overproduction. A kind of feedback loop is created where we only produce what we need and nothing more.
What does this mean for work culture? There are many ways in which current practices can be revised to reduce overconsumption: adopting a four-day work week, allowing employees to work remotely, decreasing electricity and water consumption at work, going paperless, and reducing the amount of packaging for products are just a few ideas. In addition to previously identified ways companies can reduce their carbon footprints, research focused on identifying new methods may generate changes to the ways we work and live that we had never anticipated.
Click here for the Japanese version.