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Could a Four-Day Workweek Ever Be a Reality?

The four-day workweek isn't just a dream—it's a growing trend. Companies worldwide are testing shorter workweeks, finding that they can boost productivity and employee well-being. With technological advancements and shifting work cultures, this new schedule could redefine our work-life balance. Imagine what an extra day off could mean for you. How would you spend that time? Join the conversation and share your thoughts.
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman

A four-day workweek might sound like a dream, but could it ever be a reality? Proponents have long touted the benefits of a compressed working schedule – more efficiency, a better work-life balance, improved mental health, stronger family ties, and even benefits to the environment from less commuting. With more people working from home and adopting flexible working patterns in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, having a permanent three-day weekend seems like it could be achievable.

In the United Kingdom, the largest real-world trial of a four-day workweek is currently underway. For six months, over 3,300 employees from 70 companies will work only four days a week yet receive full pay and benefits. The catch, however, is that they are expected to be just as productive in four days as they were in five.

The UK is trialing the world's largest 4-day workweek experiment, with employees getting full pay for 4 days' work.
The UK is trialing the world's largest 4-day workweek experiment, with employees getting full pay for 4 days' work.

The experiment, led by the nonprofits 4 Day Week Global and 4 Day Week UK Campaign and the think tank Autonomy, will also look at how a four-day workweek impacts gender equality, employee well-being, and the environment. The companies participating in the experiment range from digital marketing and banking to online retail and automotive. The results of the experiment will be analyzed by researchers from Cambridge, Oxford, and Boston College.

The end of the 40-hour workweek?

  • Employers are also coming around to the potential advantages of a four-day workweek, especially for attracting and retaining employees. Many companies have struggled with labor shortages in recent months, in a trend known as the "Great Resignation."
  • A few companies have launched their own experiments. Microsoft Japan saw a 40% increase in productivity and efficiency as a result of their 2019 trial of a four-day workweek. The New Zealand financial services firm Perpetual Guardian tried out a shorter workweek in 2018 and has made the change permanent.
  • The idea of a four-day workweek isn't particularly new. Even then-Vice President Richard Nixon called for it back in 1956. However, experts predict that a four-day workweek won't be instituted in the United States any time soon, even if other countries take strides in that direction.

As companies and employees continue to experiment with the four-day workweek, one trend that could facilitate its adoption is the rise of outsourced labor markets, particularly virtual assistant companies that can connect workers to skilled labor overseas. For example, the Philippines has become a hub for virtual assistants due to its skilled workforce, lower labor costs, and English proficiency.

This type of outsourcing could allow companies to maintain productivity while giving their local employees more time off, as well as offering opportunities for overseas workers. While there are concerns about the impact of outsourcing on job security and labor standards, it could be a solution for companies seeking to implement a four-day workweek. Overall, the four-day workweek may still be far from a widespread reality, but ongoing experiments and trends suggest that it could become a more viable option in the future.

Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman is a teacher and blogger who frequently writes for WiseGEEK about topics related to personal finance, parenting, health, nutrition, and education. Learn more...
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman is a teacher and blogger who frequently writes for WiseGEEK about topics related to personal finance, parenting, health, nutrition, and education. Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

timdrat

The 32-hour work week is a bad idea.

I worked ten-hour days a week for 15 years at the IRS before I retired at age 82. I would have worked three 13.3-hour days had I been allowed to. In the military we worked many seven-day weeks and some 48+ hours in a row. Some people work steady and accomplish more in 8 hours than others do in 16.

What with sick leave, leave without pay, holidays, and vacation days the average work week is nearing 32 hours now.

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    • The UK is trialing the world's largest 4-day workweek experiment, with employees getting full pay for 4 days' work.
      By: Monkey Business
      The UK is trialing the world's largest 4-day workweek experiment, with employees getting full pay for 4 days' work.