The Four-Day Workweek Is More Than A Dream: It’s A Good Idea

Photo: Westend61/Getty Images.
If you've been dreaming about a shorter workweek, good news: there are now statistics to back the fantasy up as a viable idea.
Earlier this year, a New Zealand company rolled out a four-day, 32-hour workweek on a trial basis, and the results showed it was an overwhelming success.
The New York Times reports that the 240 employees at trust management firm Perpetual Guardian were found to be more productive with a shorter workweek. For two months, the company set up an experimental schedule where employees worked for four days, but still got paid for five.
Researchers from the University of Auckland who surveyed company employees during the two-month trial run found that 24% reported a healthier work-life balance. Having more time to see their families and work on hobbies led to being more energized at the office. On top of that, work productivity increased. Staff arrived on time with better attendance and scheduled their workdays more effectively, including taking shorter breaks and having shorter meetings. The policy also benefited those who need more support in and out of the office, including working parents and new parents on leave. After the overwhelmingly positive feedback, the company hopes to make the change permanent.
Though this experiment took place in New Zealand, the results suggest it could have just as profound an effect in countries with similar economies, including the U.S. A shorter workweek isn’t just about sleeping in for an extra day. Americans work more than 34 hours a week, with many adults reporting they work closer to 50 hours to make ends meet. That is more than any of our counterparts in the world’s largest economies. In the U.S., people are donating their vacation days so co-workers can have a decent maternity leave, in addition to facing pay inequity, workplace harassment, and minimum wages that don’t stack up against an increasingly rising cost of living. A four-day workweek (with, crucially, five-day pay) could not only help lots of workers make ends meet, but it may also be a more effective way to do so.
A four-day workweek really does sound like a dream: a logical, reasonable, and now achievable one.

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series