Redefining Work

Collective Action for Surviving Well: Minimizing our use of resources and directly providing for ourselves and others.

Working hard in a paid job in order to buy more and more ‘stuff’ is destroying the quality of life for people and planet. But work can be redesigned so that paid work is just one of the forms of work that people use to meet their needs.

‘Downshifters’ are people who cut back on paid work and reduce their income in order to make time for the things that matter. Downshifters may do less paid work but they take up other kinds of work (such as self-provisioning) that means that they buy less. They often make time for other sorts of work (such as volunteering) which contributes to their overall well-being.

Studies show that between one-fifth and one-fourth of people aged in their thirties, forties and fifties in the Australia, the UK and the US voluntarily downshifted during the 1990s (as Clive Hamilton documents in his 2003 study Downshifting in Britain).

Websites written by downshifters to both promote downshifting as a way of life and to provide support for downshifters include

Stepping Off


Frugal for Life

Workplaces can promote downshifting by having workers work a shorter week while still paying them the same amount. Ron Healey, founder of 30/40 Workweek, talks about the benefits for workers and workplaces of this strategy in an  interview on the Livelyhood program (broadcast on PBS).

The New Economics Foundation in Britain argues for a twenty-one-hour workweek to help address work-life balance and promote environmental, economic and social justice

During the depression years of the 1930s, the Kellogg’s factory in Battle Creek, Michigan (in the US) employed three hundred more workers by introducing a six-hour workday, and within five years workers were being paid for a six-hour workday what they would have received for an eight-hour workday. The practice continued until the mid-1980s. Daniel Hunnicutt has written about this and one of his articles, The Pursuit of Happiness, appears on the Context Institute’s website.