In most places around the world, the typical office hours are spread out over 5 days. You might have 30 or 45 hours, but the big change comes from how long a day lasts, not how many there are. There are a few exceptions to this rule, including Mexico and Singapour, which have 6 day work weeks. And there are countries trialing a revolutionary idea dubbed “the 4-day work week”. Yes, you heard me right: the future might very well change the dreaded Mondays into an additional day of rest. So, what’s the hold-up on a worldwide shift to this organisation? We took a look at this idea and its impact on jobs.
The 4-day week: a lesson in time management
The idea of a 4-day work week is not entirely new. Indeed, countries have implemented some kind of reduced hour system in the past (sometimes over 4 days and sometimes spread out over 5) with positive results for the most part. If the term has created a buzz now, it’s because the pandemic raised new questions about work-life balance.
However, this idea has an ancestor in the form of “FedEx” days, invented over a decade ago by one of the most successful and powerful companies in the world, Atlassian. The concept revolved around giving employees 24 hours (so one day a week essentially) to work on anything not related to their daily tasks. Then, they had to finish the project within that time to be able to share it with everyone else. A similar system was later put in place in some other tech companies, including Google.
What we’ve really learned from the 4-day week and the 24-hour projects is that workers adapt to the time they have. If you give them more time for a task, they’ll fill the hours. If you give them less, they’ll finish within the allocated time too. So, getting those estimations right could make all the difference to the true efficiency in the office. Have we been getting it wrong for all these years? The science seems to point to yes.
The 3-day weekend: a healthier work-life balance
For more of us, there’s not that much you can get done in 2 days. This is especially true for anyone with children since this time is usually spent going to various lessons and even getting groceries or completing other chores. Very quickly, it feels like you’re just going through the motions and a mind-numbing routine sets in.
But what if you had a 3-day weekend? You could have one day for the kids, one day for your own activities and one day for rest. For people to disconnect from work, studies show that it takes much longer than you’d think. Furthermore, during the work week, we usually have a number of little personal problems to address. With an extra day off, you could run around to the bank for that loan or visit your sick parent or fit in a doctor’s appointment without using up your relaxation time. This could also be true for a 4-day work week which actually spands over 5 days.
People are much more satisfied at work if they feel their work-life balance has been respected by their employer. It’s a great way to strengthen the employee engagement and stop them looking for another job.
2 sides to every story: employees Vs. employers
Now, employees and employers might have different options on the 4-day week for obvious reasons. For the employee, it feels like a massive win to have more time for other activities, whereas an employer might feel cheated out of extra productivity. However, studies have shown that employees are actually more productive! The big issue is helping employers change their mindset about what salary is “rewarding”. Is it time or is it achieved objectives?
For some jobs, time is the essential component. A restaurant owner, for instance, needs their staff available around the clock to serve customers. There’s no easy way to adapt their hours to a 4-day week without ducking the pay. Indeed, we might be facing a new kind of injustice in the workforce. Some people will be paid more and have more time to actually spend their money. Others, often in the lower paying jobs, will see little to know change in their free time and that also goes for the salary. This could encourage people to work harder at school and choose professions based on the ability to adapt to flexible and reduced time, but we’ll still need people in our bars, restaurants and shops. It’s a difficult problem to fix but benefits for one group should lead to benefits for both over time.
Just 1 final word
So, there you have it: the 4-day week could revolutionize many aspects of work. The social changes will most likely create a progressive shift overtime toward certain jobs, which is a good thing. Digitalisation has already alter the workplace and tools for many professions, like we saw with ChatGPT. These are times of adaptation and reflection leading us toward more human-focused employment. I don’t know about you, but I feel excited about the future of work.
Author: Ali Neill
As the job board tester and blog editor for the Jobboard Finder, Ali works on job boards from all around the world and keeps a close eye on the recruitment trends thanks to a number of sources, including the website’s social media pages.
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