Is a five-day work week sustainable for the future?


Ever since the Industrial Revolution, most of the working world works 9-5, 5 days a week. With a rise of flexible contracts and more and more people working from home, 9-5 is of course not universal, but nevertheless, a five-day working week is still the done thing. Annoying we know!

But behold, in the last decade there has been extensive research carried comparing the pros and cons of a five-day or four-day working week. With a lot of this research pointing towards the four-day week being just as sufficient for the running of a business, and what’s more, it’s supposed to greatly improve the lives of employees too.

But why is this shortened week supposed to be so beneficial? Let’s take a look…

Photo: BURST

There have been multiple trials taking place to test out the new proposed four-day week. From March to April in 2018, a New Zealand trustee company called Perpetual Guardian took part in a planned trial. What they found was fascinating!According to the company’s CEO, the trial aimed to test two things out – whether a four-day week improves productivity, and also whether this helped employees manage their own lives a bit better. Numerous academics studied the trial and overall, the results were encouraging!

The standard and quality of work remained the same, and with this, teamwork and engagement increased while stress levels decreased. Looks positive right?

As well as there being more and more companies trialing a four-day week, there is also a range of studies into the science behind the five-day week – which for so long has remained the world’s routine for centuries. There’s lots of interest in why a longer week may not be the most productive format for society anymore.A 2007 Report from London’s School of Economics investigated how productivity changes over the working week. What they concluded was that because Tuesday to Thursday are the most productive days, condensing working hours can actually significantly reduce the manifestation of the individual factors that decrease productivity (fatigue, practice-efficiency).

There are many different reasons as to why five-day weeks may not be the best thing for our future economy and the working individuals that keep its engine running. It’s kind of like the thought of if you keep the engine fuel in good condition, then the engine will run along nicely – faster, smoother.

Photo: BURST

With copious amounts of research pointing positively towards a four-day week, corporations and companies all around the world are starting to take this proposed shortened week seriously. In fact, journalist Jeanne Sahadi from CNN money suggested that 43% of US business now offer the option of a four-day week. However, out of this 43%, only 10% of them offered this shortened working week to most or all of their employees. The proposal is quite obviously still hugely contested. The world is still somewhat reluctant to believe the facts.

So are we on the verge of a four-day week being a real thing? Well, our working environment is changing and evolving as we speak. Technology is changing the way the world communicates with each other, so perhaps it is also changing the way the world operates within itself. The future may be more sustainable if we work less…time will only tell. Get them fingers crossed!