The five-day workweek grind is so ingrained in American culture that it’s hard to imagine something else. But does it have to be that way? Why couldn’t we have a four-day workweek?
In the midst of the pandemic, as employers and employees navigate this new workplace, several companies — such as Kickstarter and technology company Bolt — are moving to a four-day workweek. There’s even a campaign underway from 4 Day Week Global to get more companies to get on board with the new schedule. 4 Day Week Global is a nonprofit community that was established to “provide a platform for like-minded people who are interested in supporting the idea of the 4 day week as a part of the future of work.” The organization is asking companies to sign on for a six-month trial of the four-day workweek in 2022.
“There are so many parts of the workweek that are just a waste of time,” Uncharted co-founder and CEO Banks Benitez told CNBC. Last summer, Uncharted began giving employees Fridays off. The company maintained its existing workload, but completed the work in less time.
“It has been a great forcing function for us to think differently, like taking a smaller suitcase on vacation,” Benitez said. “We have to make trade-offs.”
Not all companies are hacking off Fridays though. Some companies are doing what they can to eliminate “the Mondays”. In the early days of COVID, Mike Melillo, co-founder and CEO of outdoor technology company The Wanderlust Group, told CNBC that he made the impulsive decision to cancel Mondays because it was the day most jammed with meetings. Other employers are keeping the 40-hour workweek, but condensing those hours into four days instead of five.
Whatever way you cut it, eliminating a workday has huge benefits, especially for parents. Instead of using vacation time for doctor’s appointments, we could save that time for its intended purpose – time to relax and recharge. Instead of racing around on Saturday and Sunday to finish the mountains of errands that piled up during the week, we could spend this time with our family. Instead of fighting for the last available babysitter to get a Saturday night date, we could enjoy a day date lunch and movie with our spouse.
Our society is filled with contradictions. We tell parents to “enjoy every minute” but then we make it impossible for them to do this. We tell people “life is short” but then we fill every minute with work. The four-day workweek would help to reduce these contradictions.
A four-day workweek could also reduce the costs of childcare and might actually help us spend more time with our kids. Though the one potential exception is if a four-day workweek comes at the expense of longer hours during those four days, which could create childcare issues for parents of school-age kids.
As reported in the L.A. Times, Rep. Mark Takano (D-California) recently introduced legislation in July that would reduce the standard workweek from 40 hours to 32 hours under the Fair Labor Standards Act. While that might seem revolutionary, it’s important to know that before Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938, the standard workweek was six days. The law was amended to make the workweek 40 hours in 1940, and it has remained unchanged since that point even though we have made significant advances in technology and productivity.
Most Americans support a four-day workweek, with a Harris Poll finding that 82% of employed Americans would prefer longer workdays if it meant shorter weeks, according to a report by the New York Post. Among the respondents, more than two-thirds felt that a four-day workweek would increase their efficiency.
In case you haven’t noticed, we are in the midst of a major shift when it comes to the way we work. Employees are quitting record numbers. The Great Resignation shows no signs of abating. And employers can’t find enough staff to fill open positions. Something needs to change, and workers are asking – no, demanding – that employers start listening.
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