Imagine having Fridays off every week—for a three-day weekend.
Every single week. Sounds like a dream, does it?
So many opportunities to plan a weekend getaway or trip with friends. Or simply having enough time to work on a side hustle while still getting adequate rest. Perhaps a stretch of time to explore new hobbies and hone in on old ones.
An extra day to get some high-quality rest and relaxation. To run errands and check off all chores on the weekly to-do list. To binge your favorite TV show. The possibilities are endless.
That’s what a 4 day workweek can look like.
Where Does the 4 Day Workweek Already Exist?
In some parts of the world, company leaders and owners have already adopted a 4 day workweek. Their employee retention and satisfaction rates have been shown to outshine similar companies who still mandate the traditional 5-day structure.
Iceland, for example, has been a leader in cutting down working hours. They ran a pilot with 35 – 36 hours per week between 2015 – 2019, which proved to increase employee productivity and overall satisfaction with their careers. Many Icelanders now see reduced hours as the norm.
New Zealand, another shortened-workweek enthusiast, had company Perpetual Guardian run a 1-month pilot of the 4-day structure from March to April of 2018. The stellar results made them turn this experiment permanent for their 240 employees, who all showed increased levels of creativity and productivity. Talk about a win-win for everyone!
Shockingly, although both countries still work 5 days a week, the US averages 1780 hours per year compared to Germany—which sits comfortably at 1300 hours. Their secret to working less hours yet still producing high-quality work? Direct communication paired with a work culture of intense focus.
The average employee spends around 2 hours and 53 minutes actually working in an 8-hour workday. Some of the most unproductive activities done with all the other time include reading news websites, socializing with coworkers, texting friends, making coffee, and checking social media.
What are the Benefits of a 4 Day Workweek?
Besides increased employee productivity as previously mentioned, there are so many more benefits of a 4 day workweek! For example:
- Reduced stress and better work-life balance in employees
- Increased trust in the entire team
- Greater employee satisfaction (94% of employees had a positive experience with Microsoft Japan’s Work Life Choice Challenge)
- Less costs on electricity, gas, meal expenses—which leads to a smaller carbon footprint
- Better mental health overall for employees and employers
So, What’s Holding America Back?
Why is the 9-5 from Monday to Friday still the norm in the States, even after a wave of remote and hybrid work models? The situation remains complex and to understand it, we have to look into the history of the 40-hour workweek. 1890 was when time trackers began, and manufacturing employees worked around a hundred hours per week.
In 1906, the 9-5 was first introduced in the printing industry. Most notably, on September 3 in 1916, Congress passed the Adamson Act. This established an 8-hour workday for interstate railroad workers. The Act was constitutionalized by the Supreme Court in the following year, 1917. Finally, in 1940, Congress amended the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) from 44 to 40 hours.
The Act has remained capped at 40 hours for over 80 years, even with the rapid development of technology and AI. Will the future hold less hours and higher wages for employees, as automation slowly takes over parts of our work? ChatGPT is one of the tools that could streamline the educational curriculm curation process, for example.
At the End of the Day, Will the 4 Day Workweek Ever Exist?
The 40-hour workweek was carefully created for organized manufacturing assembly lines back when technology was limited. It was popularized by automobile leader Henry Ford in 1926 and was approved by law in 1940. Now, it’s become a global staple in work culture. However, does it still make sense today?
The question, What do you do? is actually only a staple question in North America, and is considered strange or even impolite in other parts of the world. Why? Work is seen as one of the main components of identity in American culture. Hobbies and interests seemingly come second to our careers.
With the gig economy gaining traction and more workers than ever choosing to be freelancers or contractors, the structure of work should accomodate the shifting nature of work itself. People are shifting from the mindset of working to live, instead of living to work. Some people would choose to have a weekday off, for example, to run errands or spend more quality time with their families.
Perhaps the 4 day workweek will be in our near future. What do you think?
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