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  • Conor’s Corner: The four-day week is a no-brainer… just ask Luca Brecel
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Conor’s Corner returns, and this month the controversial columnist sets out why we should all be thinking about a four-day work week, while also wittering on about his beloved snooker.

Following an extraordinary run of good luck in the UK this month – which saw Charlie Windsor’s Big New Hat Party grace us with an unprecedented extra bank holiday – many of us got a taste of that new style of work being pushed by several firms across the globe: the four-day work week.

What joy we all felt, as the classic first-Monday-in-May bank holiday was followed swiftly by another, with two four-day weeks back-to-back giving us a glimpse into the lives of those lucky staff members and companies taking part in a four-day week pilot earlier this year.

Does it work, though?

According to The 4 Day Week Campaign, the six-month trial saw 61 companies across a variety of sectors allow their staff to reduce working hours by 20% with no reduction in pay. And the results are in.

Almost every company (92%) which took part in the trial decided to continue with the four-day week after the pilot, with 18 out of 61 immediately opting to make it a permanent fixture.

The vast majority of participating firms were satisfied that business performance and productivity were maintained, as revenues rose by 1.4% on average over the course of the trial.

The only things that did drop during the period, it seems, were levels of staff anxiety, fatigue and sleep issues, with 71% of employees also reporting lower levels of stress and burnout.

Staff said the trial had made it easier to balance their work with family and social commitments, and that they were more satisfied with their household finances, relationships and time management.

The trial also recorded a 57% decline in the likelihood of employees quitting, and a 65% reduction in the number of sick days.

I mean seriously, this must be worth a closer look.

Best weekend of the year

Of my own fortnightly four-day week trial, my favourite of the two bank holidays was naturally May Day, which is known the world over as the final day of the annual Snooker World Championship, undoubtedly the most exhilarating sporting event in the calendar.

It should come as no surprise that this was the superior of the two bank holidays for me – I have always been a bigger fan of cue sports than monarchy.

The author hangs out with snooker legend Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Photo credit: Shakin’ Stevens

Having missed most of the tournament’s initial two weeks due to a lack of free time and waning attention span, I was finally presented with three uninterrupted days of nothing but John Virgo’s dulcet tones and the clack of balls striking together.

Hazel Irvine featured, too.

There is a lesson in this. With my leisure time limited by full-time work during the tournament’s early stages, I had managed to catch just the odd frame here and there.

But with an expansive three-day weekend ahead of me, finally I felt I could sit back, relax, and truly indulge in the pastime which brings me the most pleasure. And all while eating biscuits.

That, for me, is the beauty of the four-day week. A three-day weekend means your time is not so limited that you have nothing left to give after taking care of the usual chores, life admin and obligations.

It means you can catch up with loved ones, cook delicious, nutritious food, spend more time exercising outdoors, and generally create a healthier, happier life for yourself.

Or, it means you can sit in a darkened room watching frame after frame of tentative safety play, with Shaun Murphy’s eloquent lullaby voice putting you in a hypnotic trance and leaving you stuck to the sofa, unable to do anything beyond lifting a can of IPA and hastily made mid-session sandwich to your lips.

The final

The two-day World Championship final was an edge-of-the-seat thrill ride.

Young challenger Luca Brecel took an impressive lead in its early stages, which four-time former champion Mark Selby (AKA the Jester from Leicester) struggled tooth-and-nail to win back.

But even the east-midlander’s flawless 147 break – the first one ever in a World Championship final – was not enough to best the Belgian Bullet.

Mark Selby makes history with the first maximum break ever made in a World Championship final

Brecel was simply too relaxed, too natural and too free to be caught out this time.

It was his sixth visit to the Crucible, but the only time he had ever made it past the first round.

Previously, he had never even won a match in the 17-day long tournament, and yet here he was, in the actual final, battling it out against the several-time world #1 – one of the most talented players ever to have picked up a cue.

And how did he do it? Well, Brecel’s tournament strategy “should not be legal,” he quipped after winning the tournament.

While his competitors agonised over practice tables day in and day out in an effort to stay on form, the young Belgian hardly trained at all over the course of the tournament.

Instead, he celebrated each victory by getting “drunk as hell,” presumably turning up each day with a hangover the likes of which hadn’t been seen at a World Championship since the days of alcohol consumption expert Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins.

And still, mainland Europe’s first snooker World Champion managed to take home the half-a-million pound prize while becoming the second best-ranked snooker player in the world and making his Belgian compatriots as proud as punch in the process.

There’s definitely a lesson in there, somewhere.

If we could all be just a bit more ‘Luca’ – not let our stresses get the better of us, not take our work home with us at the end of each day and quite simply, allow ourselves to relax a bit more – perhaps we too could be World Champions one day.

I reckon a four-day work week would almost certainly help with that.

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