I’ve been working at COED for almost a year now, but I’ve only been a full-time, staff employee, for about a week. And in that short time, my boss already approached me about modifying my hours. I’m the new guy, the young guy, the guinea pig. The goal was not to increase, but redistribute, the hours of COED’s writers. For example, instead of working a 9-5 with the rest of the staff, they asked me to work a 7-3. Well, I told my boss I can offer him something even better.
I offered to work 8 AM-6 PM, 10 hours a day, Monday through Thursday, with Friday’s off. Sure, I’ll be available to pitch in on Friday, and do a little work from home, but at the end of the day, Friday’s are a part of my weekend. And just like that, I had secured a four day work week. It was almost too good to be true, as I have dreaming of a four-day work week years before I even knew what my work would eventually be. But the question is, why did I want it, and should you?
Well, for starters, there is something very simplistic in the appeal of the week being more evenly split. With just one conversation, I was able to increase my weekend from 28% of my week, to nearly 43% of my week. Yeah, f*cking awesome, I know. Now, my weekends will have a clear beginning, middle, and end.
And that’s not to say work won’t still be a grind, because it sure as hell will be. Working ten hours a day is exhausting no matter what your profession is. Not to mention that come winter, I quite literally won’t see any sunlight four days a week. But I can promise you that when I’m sleeping till noon on Friday’s, knowing I have a full three days off ahead of me, the sunlight I’m missing out on earlier in the week won’t mean shit.
Now, aside from my own personal desires, there have to be other reasons why the four day work week is so appealing, right? Ya know, more scientific reasons? Of course there is. Just take a look at Europe.
According to European productivity data compiled by The Guardian, countries like the Netherlands show “high productivity numbers, while also posting a low hourly average for workers.” But how?
For starters, the four day work week literally makes us healthier, as various research finds that a long working week increases the risk of a stroke, stress and mental illness. Simultaneously, the length of the average work week causes strain on the other aspects of an employee’s life, specifically due to the adverse affect it has on nurturing and maintaining relationships.
The second reason is productivity, as studies show the four day work week increases employee’s efficiency. According to Forbes, back in 2008, the state of Utah introduced a four day work week to many of it’s government employees. The result? An major spike in worker productivity and satisfaction. This notion is echoed by Jason Fried, CEO of the web application company Basecamp. Basecamp recently implemented a 32 hour, four day work week from May through October. As Fried stated in a New York Times op-ed, the schedule change has resulted in an increase in productivity.
“Better work gets done in four days than in five,” he wrote. It makes sense: When there’s less time to work, there’s less time to waste. And when you have a compressed workweek, you tend to focus on what’s important, ” said Fried.
The final, and most substantial benefit of the four-day work week, is the employee’s happiness. This can be quantified by both personal testimony, as well as hard data. You ask any employee who works four days as opposed to five, and I can guarantee they will be a happier person. I am, at least. That’s the testimonial side of the argument. However, cold, hard-data also backs up the notion that those who work four days a week are happier than those who work five.
According to data from the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the top five happiest nations in the world are Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Sweden. Unsurprisingly, most of these nations have implemented four day work weeks, and their citizens are subsequently happier than any other. Not only that, but the U.N. discovered a correlational between happiness and productivity.
“The report also shows the major beneficial side-effects of happiness. Happy people live longer, are more productive, earn more, and are also better citizens. Well-being should be developed both for its own sake and for its side-effects.”
The only reason the five-day work week still exists is esssenntially due to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” theory. American corporations have been using this system for decades, and will continue to do so unless given a reason otherwise. Until now. That reason will be millennials.
I am in fact a millenial, but I also f*cking hate millennials. Whiny, over-privileged, and generally annoying, most millennials have had their lives handed to them on a silver platter. The older generations will call us lazy, spoiled, and worthless, and that’s okay. They come from a world where paychecks held priority over happiness. Millennials are the opposite. Extensive studies have shown the shift in the desire of our generation. Most of us are willing to sacrifice money for enjoyment and passion. With an incoming workforce that is willing to trade dollars for passion, and hours for happiness, employers are being forced to adapt to us. And adapt they will.
It won’t happen this year, or next, or maybe in the next decade. But I can promise you, the wide-spread acceptance and standard nature of the five-day work week will die with the generation that invented it, creating a whole new world for American employees to both succeed in their careers’, and enjoy their lives, working only four days a week.