One Way to a More Sustainable Future? Introduce a Four-Day Work Week

Within the final two years, the idea of labor as we all know it has undergone a couple of radical modifications. Novel concepts centered on distant work and telecommuting have emerged and has abruptly been catapulted into the brand new regular. One in all such idea is the thought of the four-day work week. What does a four-day workweek appear to be in apply, although? What are the benefits and downsides? Is eradicating at some point from the standard workweek actually going to assist folks obtain the work-life steadiness and keep away from burnout? Let’s begin with the fundamentals.

The fundamental thought of a four-day work week is that staff work for 4 days in per week for his or her employer as an alternative of the standard 5 days per week, for a similar pay or compensation package deal. Additionally, whereas a traditional five-day work week calls for 40 hours of labour, the quantity of hours required for a four-day program can differ. To be clear, a compressed schedule during which employees squeeze 37.5 to 40 hours of labor into 4 days as an alternative of 5, just isn’t the identical as a four-day work week. The four-day work week permits staff three as an alternative of two days to reboot and chill out. It has been shown to end in brisker, extra rested staff who really feel higher and might accomplish extra on their 4 days within the workplace.

It sounds progressive, however the thought of a four-day work week just isn’t new. Within the Twenties and Thirties, as historian Benjamin Hunnicutt has documented, there was plenty of curiosity in shorter work weeks, with the 30-hour week being promoted as a technique to “unfold” work among the many unemployed and underemployed throughout the Nice Melancholy. Henry Ford was one of many greatest proponents for a six-hour workday, believing that employees could be extra productive with extra relaxation. So, why are we nonetheless discussing these concepts over hundred years later? Traditionally, what has occurred is that corporations would minimize wages after they lowered work hours, and when staff retaliated, the staff would abandon their calls for for fewer work hours in favor of wage will increase. So, whereas the idea has been round for a very long time, it has remained within the fringes of society’s work discourse.

Ladies working within the rag commerce in Richmond, Australia circa 1932. Photograph: Museums Victoria.

The capitalist argument in opposition to the four-day work week has at all times been that of decreased productiveness. Nevertheless, peer-reviewed analysis into shorter work weeks exhibits that employees could be simply as productive in 30 hours as they’ll in 40, notably since they waste much less time (on non-essential emails, chatting to colleagues, having one other unscheduled espresso break) and are higher rested. Shorter work weeks decrease the variety of sick days taken, and staff don’t use the corporate’s utilities on their further day without work, saving their employer some cash.

The world’s greatest trial of the four-day work week was in Iceland between the years 2015-2019. In that point, the nation had an precise four-day work week the place employees had been paid the identical quantity for shorter hours. By the top of the trial, over 2,500 employees — greater than 1% of Iceland’s total working inhabitants — had moved from a 40-hour to a 35- or 36-hour working week. Based on the research, productiveness both remained the identical or was discovered to have improved within the majority of workplaces throughout the nation. The four-day work week was a convincing success.

Along with all of this, there are numerous simple environmental advantages of a four-day work week. Based on a 2012 study, our carbon footprint could be lowered by 14.6 % if we spent 10% much less time telecommuting to work, and by 36.6 % if we decreased our working hours by 25%, or a day and 1 / 4 each week. Additionally, shorter work time was discovered to perform as a compensation for slower progress in consumption, which provides one other potential linkage between hours and environmental impression.

One other research indicated that if full-time employees in the US (who, in line with a Gallup report from 2014 estimated works 47 hours a week on common) labored the identical hours as these in Europe (who work considerably much less, roughly 25% much less), they’d devour about 20% much less vitality. This discount is predicted to return largely from a discount in commuting time and the attendant air pollution from automobiles.

Greater than historical past, analysis and trials, what has made the thought of a four-day workweek nearer to actualisation is the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing for practically two years now. The pandemic has led many corporations to assume exterior of the field in trying to safeguard their employees’ mental health against burnout from lengthy workdays mixed with intensified work-life juggles. All the same old questions have now been answered so overwhelmingly by the truth that as one world society, we collectively realised in some unspecified time in the future throughout this pandemic that we might make money working from home. It’s this distinctive state of affairs that has introduced this chance of the actualisation of the four-day work week.


A rising variety of companies are at present both implementing or planning to implement a four-day workweek for its staff. The advantages to each the corporate and its employees are crystal clearer. With an additional “weekend” day to handle private issues exterior the workplace, plus fewer days to cope with work-related headaches, the flexibleness of working 4 days as an alternative of 5 might help quell nervousness. Staff can even use their time to take up hobbies, spend time with family members, return to highschool for further research, and rather more. All this in flip positively impacts the employees’ productiveness in additional methods than one. It additionally has the additional benefit of reducing working prices for that month. Everybody appears to win, and I think about you know the way uncommon that’s.

The only greatest impediment I see right here lies within the mass adoption of this new work system and I believe the rationale for that is considerably socio-psychological. It’s rooted within the perception nonetheless broadly held by many people that we have to work to our limits in an effort to be seen as being productive. Many employers are nonetheless of the view that their staff are purported to work as a lot as attainable as a result of idleness, relaxation and leisure are antithetical to the event of the society.

Even earlier than the pandemic, there have been a couple of corporations selecting to work shorter weeks. In Japan, Microsoft gave it a strive within the later a part of 2019 and located that doing so elevated productiveness, decreased stress, and lessened worker burnout. What would occur if your organization determined to run fewer days per week? Would you uncover the identical advantages as different corporations? Very doubtless.

There may be no “one dimension matches all” resolution to serving to corporations and their employees get better or thrive via the worldwide pandemic. However a four-day work week may be an extremely great spot to start out.

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Cowl picture by Vlada Karpovich.

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