The Four Day Work Week

That whole Monday to Friday, nine to five institution most of us know as reality is apparently coming to an end…or so they say.

For as long as most living people can remember, the standard workweek has adhered to this formula, typically averaging out to 40 hours per week. But as everything else is rapidly changing in the way we do, think, and interact with the universe, so is the work week, as there has been increased interest in reducing it to a four-day work week. Although the idea has been around for a while, much like global warming, we're all only starting to take it seriously now.

Monday Got Me Feeling Like…

Does this mean we no longer have to suffer the Monday blues?! I read somewhere once that “Mondays only suck if your life sucks” and there is a lot of truth to that, and yet, apparently those who take immense pride in their work have still seen monumental benefits after trials and tests have been done to implement the 4-day work week.

One of the most significant benefits was the improved work-life balance. Employees have an extra day off to spend with friends and family, to explore personal interests and hobbies, or simply to kick back and take it easy for an extra twenty four hours. A major ailment that saw significant improvement was burnout, something that is being viewed with increased awareness in the workforce around the world.

The Workforce Institute at Kronos and Future Workplace conducted a study where 77% of employees of employees reported that a four-day workweek would not only improve their quality of live, but would make them feel more productive.

In a similar study, Microsoft Japan reported that the four-day workweek boosted productivity by 40%, along with having an impact on energy expenditure, as their electricity costs decreased by 23%.

Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand trust management company, documented a 20% increase in employee productivity, a 27% reduction in work stress levels, and a 45% increase in employee work-life balance after their own four-day work week trial run. This study was initially performed back in 2019, but as of last October, the company has decided to implement this policy on a permanent basis.

The New Economics Foundation found that a four-day workweek could reduce stress levels, improve employee well-being, and increase productivity. In a trial that began in 2015, they conducted a four-day workweek program in Iceland. Reducing the weekly hours from 40 to 35 and ensuring that salaries remained the same, the trial showed massive benefits to productivity, happiness, and enthusiasm. Employees also documented an increased interest in taking care of their physical and mental health when being given an extra day off, as they had more time to exercise, spend time outdoors, and simply engage in more physical activities that didn’t confine them to a workspace.

As documented by Microsoft Japan, one big benefit was the positive impact on the environment. As fewer employees commute to work each day, the potential of drastically reducing carbon emissions from transportation would be huge, as this would also lead to less energy usage from office usage. Greta Thunberg would be thrilled.

Does it apply to everyone?

In short, no, which is undeniably unfair and problematic. Some of the industries that would presumably not permit implementing such a work-week are the obvious ones: healthcare, public safety and transportation and restaurants being some of the few. With that said, for many office based jobs, a four-day workweek could be an attractive alternative.

It’s funny to think that this whole thing we know as a “work week” is actually a relatively new invention when considering the existence of mankind. Although people can argue that the five-day workweek is how we’ve “always done it,” that just really isn’t the case. Just because we've been doing something for a long time, doesn't mean we can't change it and make it even better.

Elon Musk said, “it’s easier to land a man on Mars than to change the school system”, and I don’t think that’s a dramatic statement. As we are seeing the clear downsides of the current education system model, then perhaps the world should give this four-day work week thing a try, and see what happens? Based on the trial studies it sounds pretty good to me, and if utilised, then perhaps people can be participants in life rather than observers, and not spend their life merely living for the weekend.