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Rethinking Work: Can AI Pave the Way for a Balanced Future?


A recent article on highlighted the growing discontent amongst Gen Z in Australia towards the traditional 40-hour workweek (Thomas, 2023). A young Australian woman profiled in the article decided to quit her full-time job, citing its negative impact on her health and social life. She, like many others in her generation, is prioritizing well-being and leisure over the traditional workaholic ideal. This sentiment resonates with many young people in the UK as well, and it raises a crucial question: is Gen Z right? Should we be working less and focusing more on the spiritual, social, and physiological aspects of our lives, especially considering the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to automate many tasks?


Beyond the 40-Hour Grind

While the media often highlights the push for a four-day workweek, the conversation is broader. Many across generations are questioning the idea that sacrificing well-being for long hours is the only path to success. This article explores the desire for a shorter workweek, the potential of AI to reshape our work landscape, and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.


Flexible Schedules for a Flexible World

The discussion extends beyond a rigid four-day model. Many advocate for a flexible work schedule that allows individuals to achieve a better work-life balance. This could include compressed workweeks with longer days, flexible start and end times, or even a job-sharing model where multiple people share the responsibilities of one full-time position.


AI: Beyond Repetitive Tasks

The rise of AI presents a unique opportunity to address this desire for a reduced workweek. AI’s capabilities extend far beyond simply automating repetitive tasks. Machines can now analyse complex data, generate creative content, and even make basic decisions. This frees human workers from the mundane and allows them to focus on their unique strengths: critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, and tasks requiring human connection.


A Redefined Work Ethic

In an AI-powered future, the concept of “work” itself may need to be redefined. Currently, our work ethic is often measured by the number of hours clocked in. However, as AI takes over many time-consuming tasks, productivity and the value delivered are likely to become the new benchmarks. This shift empowers individuals to achieve more in less time, leaving them with more space for personal pursuits.


Challenges and Considerations

Of course, transitioning to a shorter workweek presents challenges in itself. The feasibility varies across industries. Sectors like healthcare and emergency services may require full-time staffing. Additionally, pay structures would need to be adjusted. Would salaries remain the same with fewer working hours, or would they be pro-rated?

The success of such a large-scale shift would also depend on strong social safety nets. Reduced income may necessitate stronger social security systems and consideration of universal basic income to maintain a decent standard of living.


The Human-AI Partnership

The ideal future of work is likely a collaborative effort. AI should not simply replace human workers but rather complement and augment their capabilities. Imagine a world where AI handles the heavy lifting of data analysis and repetitive tasks, freeing human workers to focus on innovation, problem-solving, and human connection. This type of partnership has the potential to create a more efficient and productive work environment, while also allowing individuals to prioritize their well-being and personal fulfillment.


A Time for Change

The growing desire for a shorter workweek, fuelled by Gen Z and others, is a timely and necessary conversation. The current system often prioritises productivity over well-being, leading to burnout and a decline in mental and physical health. Studies by the World Health Organization (WHO) have shown a correlation between long working hours and increased risk of stroke and heart disease (World Health Organization, 2021). With the advancements in AI, we have an opportunity to restructure how we work in the UK. The goal should not be to simply work less, but to create a future where work and personal life can thrive in harmony. This means ensuring that the benefits of AI are not solely captured by corporations, but are used to create a more balanced and fulfilling work experience for all.


Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash


Thomas, L. (2023, May 10). Young Aussie reveals her plan to never work a full-time job again.

World Health Organization. (2021, May 17). Long working hours increasing deaths from heart disease and stroke: WHO, ILO.


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