As Americans return to work after their extended weekend for Labor day some people are calling for the United States to adopt a four day work week.
In a timely article in New York Magazine America was noted as a top country in terms of productivity and was only outshone by citizens in Luxemburg. However, Luxemburg workers enjoy the luxury of working less hours for the same productivity.
Many social scientists have long argued that working longer hours does not necessarily correlate to the same level of productivity and that the working time of an employee creates produces a better output when they are feeling refreshed and are feeling good about their work.
All Round Benefits
Once the idea is explored further a plethora of benefits can be extracted from the simple notion of a shorter work week:
- Social wellbeing is enhanced as family time is lengthened and improved, and people are feeling less rushed to go about their daily business;
- The environmental impact of reducing the need to travel to work by 20% is notable as well as reducing noise pollution and opening up the built environment as the need for car parking spaces is reduced;
- The demand for office space could be reduced as people could choose the hours they work. Business could even share office space in some circumstances;
- Time off from illness has been seen to be reduced as depression is greatly reduced and people undertake healthier lifestyle activities in their time off.
Notable billionaires such as Larry Page and Carlos Slim have spoken openly about the benefits of the idea and several Trade Unions are behind the idea as the benefits are self evident. CNBC have cited a report which shows that over two thirds of millionaires questioned in one study said they believed the idea of a four day week is “a valid idea”.
While the notion of a four day work week may seem like it is a radical modern idea it has actually been on the cards for decades. It was only a couple of generations ago when our ancestors would be working manually for 6 or 7 days a week for 12 or more hours each day. It was normal for them to live short lives and to reach the age of 60 would be unusual.
Over time labor laws have been introduced, work patterns changed, the types of jobs have changed and 40 hours became the norm. Flexible working patterns are also commonplace and ideas such as ‘Summer Fridays’ have been adopted.
Although it may not fully happen in our working life times, it does seem that the four day work week will be adopted by some forward thinking companies in the not so distant future, especially with a gang of proponents behind the notion of longer holidays.