Nowadays, the idea of work-life balance is spreading rapidly, and more and more people think that the we should have a four-day work week, not a five-day work week. Most employers are still resistant to this idea (due to the need to pay 100% of the salary for 80% of the working time). Nevertheless, individual companies have decided to try such a solution. A pilot program running from February to November 2022 was launched in Canada, Australia, the UK, Ireland and the US. While the argument that three-day rest will translate into better productivity cannot be ignored, there are still a number of arguments against it. Why might a four-day work week not work?
Four-day work week – table of contents:
- More endorphins?
- A four-day work week? Not in every industry
- What about us? Part-time workers’ questions
Will we feel happier if we reduce our work week by one day? Without a doubt – this is what the hedonistic nature of every human being demands. An extra day a week free from work duties will let us spend more time with our children, develop our own passion or relax. However, the conducted research confirms that after several months, the state of happiness will come back to its previous level according to the hedonic treadmill theory. This concept assumes that we quickly become accustomed to accomplishments (in this case, getting more freedom and leisure time), and thus our level of happiness automatically decreases, so we have to take on a new activity or challenge to temporarily increase it again.
Therefore, a four-day work week will not make us eternally happy and more satisfied with life, although undoubtedly, in the beginning, every employee will appreciate it. On the other hand, however, it should also be kept in mind that reduced working hours require employees to be as productive as if they were working for five days, which in practice means that they have to do their jobs faster.
This can be problematic to achieve especially in the case of older employees. Countries with demographic decline (most European countries) should take this issue into account when discussing reduced working hours.
A four-day work week? Not in every industry
While there are more companies for which a move to a four-day workweek would not be a challenge, it is important – when making top-down decisions – to take into account sectors that must work seven days a week (including gas stations, hospitals, emergency services, police, fire departments, road, rail and aviation infrastructure, grocery stores in some countries). In the case of reduced working hours, it would in practice be necessary to increase employment to fill the resulting staff shortages, which will mean higher costs for the employer.
Of course, more employment means less unemployment, which from the point of view of the governing authorities is a positive effect, but not every company will be able to afford to maintain more full-time positions. A similar situation would arise in sectors with longer-than-traditional 8-hour shifts (e.g., health care) – reducing the workweek by one day would either force the payment of more overtime or the need to increase employment.
What about us? Part-time worker’s questions
The concept of reducing the work week to four days has a lot of advantages from the perspective of a full-time employee – especially in view of the fact that it requires receiving exactly the same salary as when working five days a week.
However, it is essential to ask in what situation this solution puts people who already work 4/5 time. In practice, there could be a situation in which part-time workers get significantly less than those who work four days a week, but are paid as if they were working a five-day week. As a result, inequality and polarization in the labor market will increase, with numerous negative consequences in the long term.
Reducing the work week to four days is a concept that undoubtedly has great potential, but the voices taking a clear stance against such a solution cannot be ignored. In the case of introducing a four-day work week, it would be necessary to solve the problems mentioned above and take into account the discussed issues. Perhaps, a better solution would be to look for other ways to support the work-life balance, for example, through introducing additional days off.
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