Now Is The Time To Adopt The 4-Day Work Week

image

"We have some good experiments showing that if you reduce work hours, people are able to focus their attention more effectively, they end up producing just as much, often with higher quality and creativity, and they are also more loyal." — Adam Grant, psychology researcher, University Of Pennsylvania

A growing body of research and case studies shows that the 4-day work week increases health, happiness, learning and productivity. Now is the time to make the switch. Here's why...

#1: Parents with kids in school have the impossible situation of balancing two full-time jobs

It now appears that tens of millions of kids won't be going back to full-time, in-person education this year. This means that already overtaxed parents need to get their work done and support their kids. This gets even more complicated when parents have multiple kids, families live in a small space, or there isn't one computer per person.

The extra stress on parents in addition to all of the other stresses of Coronavirus seems to be leading to higher rates of divorce.

#2: Microsoft tested a 4-day work week. Productivity jumped 40%

Microsoft Japan performed a five-week experiment where its 2,300 employees had Fridays off. Here are the results...

  • 40% boost in productivity
  • Meetings were more efficient
  • Workers were happier
  • Employees took 25% less time off

Many other companies have successfully moved to the 4-day work week as well. For example...

  • Tech company 37 Signals does 4-day work weeks during summers. The founder Jason Fried makes the case that the constraint leads to increased productivity, and it also turns a vacation into an entire season.
  • New Zealand company Perpetual Guardian conducted a two-month trial and found productivity increased 20%. Then, they adopted the policy permanently.
  • After adopting a flexible work schedule, tax services firm Ryan saw their employee turnover rate drop from 30% to 11%, their profits double, and their client satisfaction hit record levels.
  • Brian Scudamore, founder and CEO, of 1-800-GOT-JUNK has been taking Fridays off for years.

#3: The learning demands put on professionals are increasing exponentially

According to Our World In Data, the average person in developed societies has been spending more and more time learning in formal settings over the last two centuries.

The same holds true with informal learning outside of traditional institutions, which accounts for 70 to 90 percent of all learning. Podcasts, videos, articles, games, and digital courses give people the ability to learn almost anything online for free.

Why is this all happening? I’d argue that the reason is what I call the Law of Accelerated Intelligence:

As our amount of accumulated knowledge increases exponentially, the minimum amount of learning we need to do in order to productively participate or be a top performer in society increases. In other words, accelerated societal change necessitates accelerated intelligence.

Or as economist Ben Jones puts it, “If one is to stand on the shoulders of giants, one must first climb up their backs, and the greater the body of knowledge, the harder this climb becomes.”

Learning takes time and that time has to come from somewhere.

#4: Even if short-term productivity doesn't jump right away, it likely will in the will long-term

I recently polled members of our Learning How To Learn community. 643 responded to this question...

If you had a 4-day work-week combined with a 1-day learning-week, do you think your lifetime productivity would increase or decrease?

An amazing 95% of respondents said that they thought that the 4-day work week would increase their lifetime productivity.

image

While employers don't benefit from the lifetime productivity of their employees, entrepreneurs certainly do. If you're an entrepreneur, it may well be worth your while to play the long game and set aside one full day day a week just for learning.

#5: Productivity and hours worked are decoupling as our knowledge economy advances

In an assembly line, the #1 determinant of someone's productivity is how many hours they put in. In the assembly line type jobs, low-skill workers perform repetitive physical tasks. The difference between the best worker and the worst worker isn't significant. So, time worked really matters.

In our knowledge economy, more and more jobs are high-skill and non-routine. What sets people in these jobs apart is not brawn, but their ability to learn and make decisions. The difference between the best and the worst can be more than 1,000x. In order to get better at learning and decision-making, individuals need to set aside significant amounts of time for deliberate practice—a type of learning that typically doesn't happen on the job.

Bottom line: Top performers in knowledge economies think of work in a fundamentally different way. Their productivity isn't primarily measured by time worked.

#6: It will make everyone healthier and happier

Several studies have come to the same conclusion—working less makes employees healthier and happier.

  • According to a study involving 600,000 people, those who work 55-hour per week have a 33% higher risk of having a stroke than those who maintain a 35-40 hour work week.
  • In a study performed by Deloitte, younger workers placed “work-life balance” above career progression.
  • Workers with reduced hours in a Swedish study were sick less often.

Let's take action

How we split our work and life time isn't set in stone.

In fact, the first known example of a 5-day work week was 1908—not that long ago. A mill expanded the one-day weekend to Saturday to accommodate Jewish workers who observed Sabbath. Less than two decades later, in 1926, Henry Ford took the leap of faith. Here is the title of the New York Times cover story...

image

Since Coronavirus, we've seen several things that seemed set in stone change almost overnight...

  • Remote education
  • Remove work
  • Wearing masks when sick
  • Rethinking of policing

I believe that the 4-day work week should be added to this list.

What do you think?