Are Four-Day Workweeks the Future?

It has taken decades to move away from the thought of working Monday through Friday, 8 AM to 5 PM. Unfortunately, as the internet came and work became easier to do from home, employees had trouble turning off their work. Bosses also have trouble not sending out “that last email” after hours or on the weekend. Employees used to leave their job, drive home, and focus on their families. Of course, there were always those careers that brought their work home in the evening or on the weekends. The age of information and technology came, and the ability to always be available through the phone or internet made people feel even more overworked.

Family life started to struggle with parents on their phones or computers late into the evenings. Young career people were overworked and underpaid and typically doing the jobs that their older counterparts weren’t always able to do with the new technology.

As the human race rolled into the first decade of the 2000’s people were feeling the strain.

This stress and changes to work from home are making some employers consider a four-day workweek. Of course, it isn’t happening in every country, but it has begun.

The idea of a four-day workweek is that people will have four days to put in their work and then have a three-day weekend off. This will help people with their families, give them a mental break, and a better work-life balance.

The negatives of a four day work week:

The issue is that employers may still contact employees on days off, and we will still feel the need to get tasks done on those off days. If we change our work schedule, then businesses change their workdays as well.

Changing a workday for an adult means child-care changes may occur, and schools may have to change their school day.

Changing a school week will change how sports operate, child-care, and how school programs and educational resources are structured.

Where did the 7 day work week come from?

The seven days in a week came from the idea that seven planets made up the solar system. The number seven was sacred, and that eventually turned into the week. This was from the Babylonians, who understood that seven days corresponds to how long it takes for a moon to transition between each phase. The moon’s cycle is about 30 days. Each culture inherited this system of seven days in a week and the Julian calendar of today. The days of the week were named from the gods, which corresponded to the planets. 

Fast forward to the 19th century, where Sundays became recognized as a holy day, and you did not work. They did, however, still work on Saturday in the mills. They found that production suffered on Monday due to everyone being out on Sunday enjoying themselves. So they made Saturday a half-day. In 1908 a mill honored the Jewish tradition of Saturday being a region’s day, so they removed working on Saturday.

Ford was the first big factory to give Saturday and Sunday off and work a 40-hour workweek making this the setting for the current work schedule. In 1932 the United States adopted this workweek system to help unemployment that the Great Depression caused. In Europe, the  5-day work week occurred when a factory was making too much surplus, and they found that by having the workers only work Monday to Friday, they didn’t have a surplus. This also gave people time for their families twice a week.

Changing the workweek to four days:

Since technology has improved efficiency, people are completing tasks faster. Even in factories, efficiency is up. Workplaces are now very different from the mill-based factories of the past. Countries are starting to adopt workweeks of 4 days a week but keeping the same wages as five. This was said to help with work stress, improve family life, and help workers feel better and enjoy work when they came back to work Monday more than ever before.

It may take time to adopt this type of work week by more companies. It may also affect other industries, as more companies change to this. However, with the technology available, we see more companies with work-from-home employees and in-home hires.

The future of the traditional workweek and office lifestyle will continue to change over the next few decades.

In the meantime, there are ways to manage stress from overworking. Learn more here