Should we switch to a 4-day work week?
Do you feel like your weekends are gone in the blink of an eye? You toil away all week, and then you barely get a chance to catch up on sleep before it’s Monday again. Your laundry hamper is still full, you didn’t have time to meal prep, and you never got around to cleaning the oven.
You’re not alone. People all over the world are starting to consider implementing a 4-day work week to allow employees more time to rest, hang out with friends and family, and catch up on household chores. Rumor has it that going from a 40-hour work week to a 32-hour work week won’t even have a negative impact on productivity.
Sounds like a win-win situation, right? The 4-day work week could be the key to solving all our problems…or it might just create new ones. Fortunately, we can look to those who have gone before us for help making this decision.
We have COVID-19 to thank for bringing the 4-day work week into the spotlight, but one country was doing a study long before the virus broke out. Iceland conducted trials on 2,500 workers from 2015 to 2019. A variety of industries took part, including schools, businesses, hospitals, and social service providers.
The findings were encouraging. Researchers discovered that productivity remained the same or improved in each of the workplaces they studied. While this may sound surprising considering these workers had 35-hour weeks instead of 40-hour weeks, it’s actually reasonable since people tend to be more productive when they are not overworked.
Now that the trial is finished, over 86% of Iceland’s workers have the right to work shorter hours for the same pay. Similar experiments are in progress in Spain and New Zealand.
Several of the world’s most productive countries, including Norway, Belgium, Denmark, France, and Germany, work an average of less than 30 hours per week. This corroborates the findings of Stanford University, which reveal a relationship between increased productivity and decreased working hours.
The idea of working less is starting to reach American shores as well. Recently, California Congressman Mark Takano introduced legislation for a 4-day work week. His proposal involves lowering the maximum hour threshold for overtime pay from 40 hours to 32 hours. Apparently, workaholism may not be a core American value as we once thought.
The pros and cons of a 4-day work week
I’m guessing some of you are still a little skeptical. It seems like the 5-day work week is part of the foundation of our society. What would happen if we threw it out the window? Would our kids have only four days of school? Would our stock market stop trading on Fridays?
Yes, the 4-day work week would be a big change. Like all huge changes, it has advantages and disadvantages. While some of them might be obvious, others are hidden below the surface.
Aside from improving productivity as we discussed earlier, the 4-day work week offers a host of benefits. Employees can experience increased job satisfaction, improved work-life balance, heightened company loyalty, and decreased stress.
The 4-day work week also promotes gender equality in the workplace in that it makes space for working mothers to focus on childcare. Jobs that value staying late and working the occasional weekend tend to be harder on working moms. A shorter work week gives them more time to spend with their kids and contribute to society in that way.
Another important advantage of the 4-day work week is that it reduces our carbon footprint. If the entire office is closed on Fridays, no AC or electricity is needed. There is no reason to use excessive gas for a lengthy commute. Furthermore, people tend to spend their free time doing less carbon-intensive activities such as biking and walking, playing with their kids in the backyard, and visiting neighborhood friends.
Switching to a 4-day work week is sure to be met with pushback, especially since it requires such a radical societal transformation. While it has been confirmed that productivity won’t suffer from this change, there are other disadvantages that are important to keep in mind.
The main complaint surrounding a 4-day work week is lack of access to government services and other important services. With offices closed on Fridays, people have less time to run errands and get the help they need. One solution for certain businesses might be to give half the office Mondays off while the other half has Fridays off. In the future, AI might become adept enough at customer service to run the show when offices are closed.
It’s essential that companies don’t try to make their employees squish the same amount of hours into four days. This will cause burnout and lead to decreased productivity. It will also prevent people from having a healthy work-life balance because they get home so late. The 4-day work week should have 35 hours maximum.
Is it time to switch?
Whether you’re an employer thinking about attracting valuable employees, an employee looking for an ideal work situation, or a gig worker figuring out your weekly schedule, you may want to consider implementing a 4-day work week. It could make the difference between satisfaction and burnout in your workplace.
That being said, it’s not going to be easy to make this change. You’ll probably need to redesign your entire company structure to make sure your employees can get all of their work done in a shorter amount of time. This means shorter meetings, fewer distractions, and streamlined communication processes.
Still, your choice to make this switch now will pay off in the long run. The world is moving towards a 4-day work week, and you want to be ahead of the game. Plus, you’ll feel great knowing you’re contributing to building a more balanced and connected society.
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