Why 4-Day Work Weeks are Better for Society

We’ve all experienced the limitations of a weekend. You run out of the office Friday with high hopes for 2 days of reckless abandon, with little to no responsibility, but alas! You are greeted by the stark reality of a weekend filled with a laundry list of to-do’s and hardly any fun. Okay, let’s be honest, we sneak a bit of fun in where we can, but that doesn’t stop us from being overwhelmed by all the things we must do to prepare for the upcoming week.  So where did this concept of a weekend actually come from? It’s been said that time is a construct that humans have bent to their own benefit and for the weekday, which is entirely man made, that is definitely not too far from the truth.  The five-day workweek showed up in the beginning of the 20th century in order to accommodate Jewish workers who observed the Sabbath, while also not offending the Christian majority.

Since then it has grown to be an international standard around which we arrange our lives. During “long” weekends, we rejoice for gaining an extra day to delve into the real fun we crave all year long. For most of us, this represents a day with no strings attached, an obligation-free hall pass to kick off our shoes, theoretically, and relax.  That’s when the thought creeps in. You know the one: What if every weekend was a three-day weekend? In a study done at the University of Rochester in which 74 adults between the age of 18 and 62 were observed who worked more than 30 hours a week, it was concluded that weekends were associated with more freedom and thus, heightened levels of happiness within participants.

So what would weekends look like for us if we were given an opportunity to expand them forever?  Would the result of this increase in freedom be higher productivity, lower stress and more quality time with those we love most?  The extra day off would certainly result in better work-life balance that could be beneficial for both employees and their employers. 4-day work week trials have noted a decrease in stress amongst workers alongside an increase in both commitment and stimulation.

Potentially the biggest benefit of lengthening weekends would be a shift in attitude that the working class typically experience regarding work.  People have been conditioned to work/learn for 5 days since kindergarten, learning in the same pattern, repeating the same standards of existence.  Imagine what production might look like from employees, if there was a major shift that ruptured that predictable, monotonous schedule we have been exposed to for as long as we can remember. There might quite literally be an explosion of creativity, collaboration and innovation.