Monday 8 October 2018 8:04 am

DEBATE: Would creating a ‘Free Time Index’, as the Green Party suggests, improve wellbeing in the UK?


Would creating a ‘Free Time Index’, as the Green party suggests, improve wellbeing in the UK?

Leni Zneimer, WeWork general manager for UK and Ireland, says YES.

There is an increasingly strong business case being made for prioritising employee wellbeing – and change on a national scale is long overdue.

Research from ACAS estimates that mental ill-health costs the UK economy £30bn a year and is now responsible for more lost working days than any other illness. By creating a national Free Time Index, and measuring general wellbeing, it’s entirely likely that GDP would improve as a result.

At WeWork, we are increasingly seeing employers focus on integrating and accommodating employees’ work and personal life in a balanced way.

Wellbeing and productivity are inextricably linked, hence a focus on the quality of the time that people spend at work.

Free time is a useful factor to measure wellbeing, but we also need to tackle the divide between the amount of time working and time which is well spent.

Time at work is equally as important, and an integral factor in improving wellbeing in the UK.


Read more: Designing cities in mental health friendly way could add £15bn to economy

Gareth Milner, head of digital at the Centre for Policy Studies, says NO.

A national Free Time Index wouldn’t improve wellbeing. As is typical of Green Party policies, the measure would be little more than an exercise in fluffy virtue signalling.

Capitalism can improve living standards, and is the greatest weapon in the fight to reduce global poverty.

GDP may not be perfect, but it remains the most important measure when it comes to creating the wealth that ultimately lets us live longer, happier lives. We should not ignore it.

The wellbeing of workers will not be improved by Whitehall bean-counters knowing how much free time we have. This measure also ignores how free time is spent. There are many factors which improve the quality of free time, of which wealth is one. Involuntary free time due to redundancy, for example, will surely reduce the quality of an individual’s wellbeing.

In that sense, the Greens haven’t just misunderstood how the economy works, they’ve also taken a depressingly narrow-minded view of what makes people happy.

Read more: How the machines can make your workplace more human