Dobbins: The four-day workweek would benefit everyone

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The four-day work week would be beneficial in place of the traditional American 40-hour week.

Chloe Dobbins, Staff Writer

In 1930, British economist John Maynard Keynes predicted the average workweek would be 15 hours long by 2030. Needless to say, he was wrong. 

The standard American workweek is currently 40 hours long spread across five days. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, many employees began to question the possibility of a four-day workweek as they grew accustomed to working from home. If four-day workweeks are widely implemented, they will have the potential to create a better work-life balance for employees, increase worker productivity, conserve energy and even reduce pollution. 

There are a few different models for a four-day workweek. One model suggests all employees take Fridays off to create a three-day weekend, and another lets employees each have a different day off to keep the business staffed over weekdays. Regardless of the method used, the idea is to decrease worker burnout and achieve the same or better results in fewer hours. 

Having an extra day off would obviously give workers much more personal time for hobbies and for spending time with family and friends. This would greatly benefit certain employees. Employment for mothers often follows a V-shaped pattern, meaning mothers stop working for a period of time before regaining their jobs. This typically happens during summer vacation and when their children are not in school. Another day off could keep mothers’ and other parents’ jobs more stable or encourage them to become part of the workforce, as there would be one day less they needed to search or pay for childcare services. 

Employers, too, would see benefits under a four-day workweek. More hours worked does not necessarily lead to a higher total output — rather, overwork actually often results in a lower output. Giving employees another day off would give them the opportunity to catch up on sleep, resulting in more energy to work. As the time allotted for working would be shortened, a four-day workweek could also help create more efficient time management as workers have less time for useless tasks and procrastination. A four-day workweek, in addition, would also be a great selling point for companies to attract employees. 

Under the model of all employees taking Friday off, companies would have to pay less for electricity and other bills. Furthermore, even the environment could benefit from the implementation of four-day workweeks as less employees commute to work daily, resulting in fewer carbon emissions from cars and more energy conserved by businesses. One British study suggests that the UK’s carbon footprint could be decreased by 127 million tons by 2025 under a widespread four-day workweek. 

There have been several successful case studies on four-day workweeks. The Perpetual Guardian company in New Zealand reported its productivity increased by 20%, staff satisfaction increased and stress levels decreased after a trial run of the four-day work week, and it announced plans to make the change permanent. After Microsoft Japan experimented with the four-day workweek, it announced results of workers’ productivity being boosted by 40% and lowered electricity costs by 23%. Last January, D’Youville College in Buffalo, New York, shifted its workweek from 37.5 hours across five days to 32 hours across four days, a decision supported by much of the faculty and students. 

While a four-day workweek may seem extreme now, five-day workweeks seemed extreme a century ago. The four-day workweek could benefit everyone involved, from workers to the environment. As employees become more dissatisfied with their jobs while returning to work after quarantine, more companies should seek a better work schedule through a four-day workweek.