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

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

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In the final two years, the idea of labor as we all know it has undergone just a few radical adjustments. Novel concepts centered on distant work and telecommuting have emerged and has immediately been catapulted into the brand new regular. One of 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 individuals obtain the work-life stability and keep away from burnout? Let’s begin with the fundamentals.

The primary thought of a four-day work week is that workers work for 4 days in every week for his or her employer as a substitute of the standard 5 days every week, for a similar pay or compensation bundle. Also, whereas a standard five-day work week calls for 40 hours of labour, the quantity of hours required for a four-day program can fluctuate. To be clear, a compressed schedule wherein staff squeeze 37.5 to 40 hours of labor into 4 days as a substitute of 5, isn’t the identical as a four-day work week. The four-day work week permits workers three as a substitute of two days to reboot and loosen up. It has been shown to lead to brisker, extra rested workers who really feel higher and may accomplish extra on their 4 days within the workplace.

It sounds modern, however the thought of a four-day work week isn’t new. In the Twenties and Thirties, as historian Benjamin Hunnicutt has documented, there was lots of curiosity in shorter work weeks, with the 30-hour week being promoted as a way to “unfold” work among the many unemployed and underemployed throughout the Great Depression. Henry Ford was one of many largest proponents for a six-hour workday, believing that staff could be extra productive with extra relaxation. So, why are we nonetheless discussing these concepts over hundred years later? Historically, what has occurred is that corporations would reduce wages after they lowered work hours, and when workers retaliated, the workers 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.

Women working within the rag commerce in Richmond, Australia circa 1932. Photo: Museums Victoria.

The capitalist argument in opposition to the four-day work week has all the time been that of decreased productiveness. However, peer-reviewed analysis into shorter work weeks reveals that staff might be simply as productive in 30 hours as they will 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 workers don’t use the corporate’s utilities on their additional break day, saving their employer some cash.

The world’s largest 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 staff had been paid the identical quantity for shorter hours. By the top of the trial, over 2,500 staff — greater than 1% of Iceland’s complete working inhabitants — had moved from a 40-hour to a 35- or 36-hour working week. According to the examine, 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 powerful success.

In addition to all of this, there are numerous plain environmental advantages of a four-day work week. According to a 2012 study, our carbon footprint could be lowered by 14.6 p.c if we spent 10% much less time telecommuting to work, and by 36.6 p.c if we decreased our working hours by 25%, or a day and 1 / 4 each week. Also, shorter work time was discovered to operate as a compensation for slower development in consumption, which provides one other potential linkage between hours and environmental affect.

Another examine indicated that if full-time staff within the United States (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 eat about 20% much less power. This discount is predicted to come back largely from a discount in commuting time and the attendant air pollution from autos.

More 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 almost two years now. The pandemic has led many corporations to suppose exterior of the field in making an attempt to safeguard their employees’ mental health against burnout from lengthy workdays mixed with intensified work-life juggles. All the standard questions have now been answered so overwhelmingly by the truth that as one world society, we collectively realised sooner or later throughout this pandemic that we may do business from home. It is that this distinctive state of affairs that has offered 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 workers. The advantages to each the corporate and its staff are crystal clearer. With an additional “weekend” day to handle private issues exterior the workplace, plus fewer days to deal with work-related headaches, the pliability of working 4 days as a substitute of 5 will help quell anxiousness. Employees may use their time to take up hobbies, spend time with family members, return to high school for additional research, and far more. All this in flip positively impacts the employees’ productiveness in additional methods than one. It additionally has the additional advantage of decreasing working prices for that month. Everyone appears to win, and I think about you know the way uncommon that’s.

The single largest impediment I see right here lies within the mass adoption of this new work system and I believe the explanation for that is considerably socio-psychological. It is 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 workers 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 just a few 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 seemingly.

There is likely to be no “one dimension suits all” resolution to serving to corporations and their staff recuperate or thrive by means of the worldwide pandemic. But a four-day work week is likely to be an extremely good spot to start out.

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Cover picture by Vlada Karpovich.

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