Recently, when I was writing about the rescue horses returned to the wild, I referenced the classic tale “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. Unavoidable really.

From now until the new year, good luck navigating your day without encountering it on radio, in film and on stage, both in the original and in numerous modern adaptations. Each has its charms, but honestly, read the book.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

One of the things that stands out in the book but gets lost in the stage production is the description of the actual work life. Granted, Bob Cratchit had a harder go of it than most, but one thing that really stuck with me as a kid was the expectation that most people would work the day before Christmas and the day after. Getting Christmas Day itself off was a huge deal.

To a kid steeped in school holiday week, that seemed positively barbaric.

Later, when I was working retail to make the rent, it was my reality – and still seemed positively barbaric.

Regardless of faith, or which holiday a person celebrates, it seemed to me then and now that time off to relax and feast and recharge is essential.

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With Dickens hovering in the air all around, this idea was already in my mind when I stumbled across a new study that has been concluded in the U.S. and elsewhere on a four-day workweek.

What?

Several major companies and corporations in the U.S. and Ireland have been conducting an experiment to see how beneficial a four-day workweek would be. What’s more, a larger and longer study of the same thing has just wrapped up in the U.K. – results are due to be released in February.

I first read about it on CNN’s webpage, but it is everywhere. Forbes, Fortune, Bloomberg, Business Insider, Fox – everyone is reporting on the findings and proclaiming it a roaring success.

Not surprisingly, employees loved it and it helped with recruitment, too. Corporations that had been desperately seeking new hires (and failing) suddenly found themselves the hot ticket in town with a large pool of applicants wanting to work for them. Makes sense to me.

Companies reported “adjustment” issues as clients and staff figured out the new way of being, but those seemed minor and contrary to what every single bit of my New England puritanical instinct tells me: productivity actually went up. None of the corporations who completed the survey intend to go back to the way things were. Back to the way things are for the rest of us.

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Now, a few things to note. While the studies were large, they weren’t massive. We are talking 33 corporations. Also, the longest stretch of time in the study is six months. That leaves a lot of room for things to potentially change from season to season.

More importantly, as far as I can tell, the study involved “white collar” jobs only, and a specific subset within that group even. I saw a lot of public relations and marketing firms represented, not so much steel workers or teachers. So, yes, it is a flawed study if we are talking grand pronouncements of “the new normal.”

However, it was well within my grandparents’ time that Ford went to the five-day week, so new labor ideas and timelines are an ever evolving thing, keeping pace with the needs of the workforce.

So, let’s expand the study, try new things, be bold and find what works for a true work-life balance.

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