Those of us that say economics is the study of everyday life could be referring to the Pret Index. Using numbers from Pret a Manger, we can learn a lot from lunch (and breakfast).
Let’s take a look
The Pret Index
As an international sandwich chain, Pret a Manger has the data that indicate if we’ve returned to work after Covid lockdowns and precautions.
The Index number tells us how close breakfast and lunch transactions are to a normal January 2020 baseline. With a 46, for example, NYC downtown is at 46 percent of pre-Covid Pret transactions:
However, a closer look at the NYC Downtown Index reveals a rebound that could be trending up to the horizontal black line that represents pre-Covid levels in Wall Street and Tribeca:
Meanwhile, hit by Omicron before us, London’s shopping and tourist district is ahead of NYC in its recovery but we can hope that New York’s Pret Index will soon be there:
So yes, the Pret Index demonstrates a return to normal. But we should ask what normal will be. These were our normal work hours:
Now though, used to working from home, will we embrace a four day workweek? We have previously looked at the studies.
Our Bottom Line: The 4-Day Workweek
From 2015 to 2019, researchers observed the impact of a 4- day workweek in Iceland. Participating businesses ranged from preschools to hospitals while selected government agencies and offices also took part. In all, approximately 2,500 workers provided a reaction to the same pay for less time at work.
The report supported a reduced workweek. Participants said that that they had more family time and less stress. Men helped with childcare and household chores. People reported less burnout and better health. At work, managers said that new work strategies like shorter meetings preserved productivity. Since then, 86% of the workers in Iceland got the right to move to a shorter work week.
The results were quite different in 2016 when the owner of a Swedish biotech firm reduced his 30 employees’ daily hours from eight to six while the pay remained the same. After a month, he switched the schedule back to normal because everyone was more harried. People had a tough time contacting unavailable associates when they needed them. Some stayed later to finish or left the work for their managers to complete.
In another experiment at a Gothenburg, Sweden nursing home, the outcomes were positive and negative during the two years that 68 employees earned full pay for fewer hours. Working five days a week, six hours a day, employees were less stressed, engaged in extra activities with the elderly residents, and called in sick less frequently. However, the missed time added up to $1.3 million (12 million kronor) in pay for the 17 extra employees they needed. So yes, jobs were created but the program was too expensive.
You see where we have wound up. Less can be more… but not always.
My sources and more: This article had all I needed to know about the Pret Index. Next, for the four day workweek, this Journal podcast was up-to-date while this Washington Post article from a year ago signaled where we should check for future studies. Please note that our four day workweek paragraphs were previously in this econlife.