Ever since you started your first full-time job, working five days a week became a habit. Perhaps your present job requires six or even seven days. How would you benefit from reducing to a four-day workweek?
If you feel overworked today, imagine how it was for working people of the past. Before World War II, labor laws and safety standards were almost non-existent. The Industrial Revolution enriched many of the infamous titans of business but did little for the average worker.
In those days, the workweek was perpetual with a slave labor mentality. The factories, mines, and other industries often had as many children workers as adults. The environment of these places was usually harsh and dangerous, and countless workers lost their lives.
Until 1938, Congress enacted the Fair Labor Standards Act, says an article published by the US Department of Labor. Not only did these laws end the immoral practice of child labor, but they also set the first labor and safety standards.
According to an article published by Business Insider, it wasn’t until Congress amended the Act in 1940 that a 40-hour workweek became law. Most businesses and industries divide it into 8 hours a day, five days a week. Hours beyond the standard were considered overtime and paid accordingly.
Most people receive either an hour or half-hour lunch, and these days you must work over and above that standard eight hours to account for these breaks. Many people end up working more than a 40-hour workweek, but it’s unpaid considering the break times. Don’t forget the commute time back and forth, which can add another couple of hours to your day.
Why is a 4-Day Workweek Better?
When’s the last time you whistled while you worked? If you’re like most people, your work week starts on the dreaded Monday. By Wednesday, you’re pushing for Friday and anticipating the weekend.
However, if you work retail or some other jobs that are open seven days a week, it becomes and never-ending cycle of work and rest, and you only get a day off here or there. Even if you love what you do, you may feel overwhelmed and exhausted by the fifth day. Not only do you have a job, but you must also balance time with family and other responsibilities.
What if you could complete your job week in four days and have three days for you? No wonder the possibility of working a four-day week can make employees happier. With the three extra days, you may feel more committed to your job and have less sick time. Plus, you’ll have more quality time with family and friends, and it can boost your positivity.
Many nurses and medical professionals opt to take a shift that requires three, ten-hour days, overworking that extra fourth day. An article published by BBC News mentions a two-year Swedish study on working shorter hours. The study found that the control group had fewer sick days and a better perception of their well-being.
When they increased the hours, workers reported being more exhausted and less motivated. Is it possible that shortening the workweek is the key to less burnout in this country?
1. Higher Productivity and Profits
Some employers may object to a four-day workweek because productivity may take a nosedive. They might assume that giving employees three days off could result in complacency and slacking. However, studies abroad have demonstrated the opposite effect.
According to an article published by NPR, Iceland studies had suggested that employees increased their productivity when their working week decreased. At least 86 percent of the Icelandic workforce now works four days a week with measurable success.
In addition to an increase in productivity, working shorter hours has the potential for increased profits. An article published by The Guardian highlights a study conducted by an IT company in California. The company found that even with shorter hours, their earnings not only weren’t hurt but were increased, as employees can get more done when they’re not worn out and exhausted.
2. Creating a More Equal Workforce
Not all parents want to work and leave their children with sitters or daycare, especially those with infants. Social norms in the past dictated that women stay home and care for the children and home. Men went to work and provided for the family.
However, so many men were deployed overseas during WWII that it left a formidable vacuum in the workforce at home. Women began to take the industrial jobs that the soldiers vacated. It was a turning point in traditional gender roles for women that never changed.
Today, women still are a strong force in the workforce while still being partners and mothers. Many men are stay-at-home fathers and husbands while their partners work. According to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, at least one in five parents in America stays at home.
While the percentage of stay-at-home dads continues to rise, more women are still at home than men. The poll shows at least 27 percent of stay-at-home parents were men while only 16 percent were women. The difference between these percentages demonstrates the ongoing inequality for women in the workforce.
Can reducing the working week to four days address this equality issue? It shows potential, states an article published by World Economic Forum in the UK. Women in the workforce often earn less than their male counterparts because they can’t work as many hours due to childcare.
The article’s premise is that if everyone only had to work four days a week, they would have more time for family responsibilities. It would help put women on an equal footing with men and qualify for the positions and pay they deserve.
3. More Leisure Time
How long have you put off that dream family vacation because of your work schedule? Do you often feel so exhausted after working five days straight that you can’t enjoy the weekend? Maybe a four-day workweek can help.
Having three days off means that you could spend more quality time with your family. You needn’t worry about less money because you’d be making the same wage. There would also be more time for you and your spouse to reconnect on a romantic three-day getaway.
What about all those hobbies and skills you’ve wanted to learn but never had time for? Working four days instead of five could provide more opportunities to cultivate your creativity. Plus, you could learn new skills that would benefit your career with a pay raise or a promotion.
4. Benefits to Your Mental Health
Working five days a week is a stress on your mind as well as your body. When you spend more hours at work than at home, it’s natural to feel mentally drained and stressed out. Chronic stress can be detrimental to your physical and mental health.
It’s not uncommon for people who work full-time to have poor sleep issues, especially doing shift work. If you’re sleep-deprived, you may be in a constant brain fog while struggling with anxiety and depression.
Another article published by the World Economic Forum discusses the mental health benefits of a shorter working week. The article cites three different studies showing that people who worked fewer hours are often reported to be happier. They also said that they had less stress, anxiety, and depression.
One of the reasons this extra time benefits your mental health could be an increase in solitude. After working all week with coworkers and the public, you must play catchup with family time. It leaves you precious little alone time to relax and revitalize your mind and spirit.
Decreasing your job to four days a week could address this crucial mental necessity. Your mind can relax with meditation and visualization. Plus, you would have more time to journal and rejuvenate your relationship with the Divine.
5. Possible Health and Fitness Benefits
Most cafeterias and kitchens at work are lined with vending machines for quick snacks on the go. Unfortunately, most products in these machines are highly processed and junk food. Since you’re often eating in a hurry or on the road, you usually don’t have time to chew and digest your food properly.
Vending machines and drive-throughs are often your first choice during the busy working week. Unfortunately, these foods are often filled with empty calories that can cause obesity and other serious health risks. If you had fewer workdays, you might have more time to plan and pack healthy lunches and snacks.
Final Thoughts on a Four Day Work Week
Working a shorter number of days each week could be the answer to many stressed-out individuals. Research shows that other countries that have tried a shorter week have had great results with it. People of the Netherlands work an average of 29 hours, and according to The Tech Republic, they have one of the highest ratings of happy employees.
Would you prefer to work longer days and have a shorter workweek, or do you like the current setup in this country? It’s food for thought, as things can drastically change with the stress levels and mental illness from people being overworked. Plus, your mindfulness will increase when you have time to spend with family and friends without the exhaustion from working too much.