The magic of a 4 day work week

Fresh news outta New Zealand today about a will & estates company that did a two month experiment with a 4 day work week (with everyone working 4 days a week but being paid for 5), and the results are in: 

  • An independent academic team brought in to analyse the impact found increases in productivity and engagement
  • Employees also reported increases in work-life balance and lower stress
  • The experiment itself has lead to other areas where employee input is valued and positive changes are made

I'm a huge advocate for a 4 day work week. Two non-work days (that usually happen on weekends!) is just not enough to deal with the mountains of personal business everyone has, especially in a world where the gendered division of labor (women stay at home, men go to work) has all but disappeared and most households with children under 18 have two parents working. Having literally any one weekday off each week creates space for people to go to the bank, get some groceries, take care of cleaning and household projects, and maybe even sleep in a little, which allows more of the weekend to be used for what people really want to use it for: leisure. 

Additionally, as the article indicates, there's a lot of smaller household-management tasks that people were doing at work that, in a 4 day work week, they do on their own time instead, like online shopping or, in the case noted in the piece, apartment hunting. It's much easier to stay focused on work when you know you have time and space outside of work to deal with whatever you need to deal with. 

And if companies made that 3rd day off flexible? You might see a total elimination of tracking around sick and personal days, or of people leaving early or coming in late for doctor appointments, because people would already have a built-in weekday off each week to schedule things. 

Ultimately, if we could transition the US economy to expect 4 day workweeks rather than 5, there'd be a marked increase in quality of life for comparatively little cost for the employer (especially if, as evidence seems to indicate, the same amount of work ultimately gets done). Heck, businesses could just give everyone Fridays or Mondays off, shut down the office for an extra day, and see payoffs in lowered utility bills as well. 

Obviously we're far from making this a norm in the US, and there are some companies that would have an easier time of it than others, but this is the direction labor should be taking. Compared to any time in human history, we're more productive workers, with tech that allows us to leverage our productivity even more, and yet we have less leisure time now than we did in the medieval era. The gains in productivity have made a few people rich, and we all have more stuff, but we're not working less. We should be.