Some weeks ago, I started to talk with my managers about changing my schedule to a four-day week. After enough wage, good managers, teammates that I admire, 32 hours workweek is probably the next thing that would boost my satisfaction. While the culture and values of the place where I’m working allow these conversations to evolve, because I’m a consultant, it also needs to match the timing and culture, so these changes may not be immediate.

So I start to talk with friends and mentors about how it would work. I also searched about the subject, and above are some exciting discoveries and meditation I have done on this topic so far.

The 5 day workweek

Before we start to talk shit about 4 days work week, let’s review why we have 5 days workweek become the norm.

Since the industrial revolution, the work labor uses to have 6 days workweeks using Sunday as the leisure day. Things start to change when Jews begin to get 2 days of rest (mainly in New York). Then the US began to legislate around work hours around, and with the great depression, all rich people want a way to stop bleed their loss and voilà, poor workers have the right to work less, extending weekends to Saturday and Sundays.

Why work less?

Staring with compensation. When I first wrote this article, it is well known that money only improves life quality or the subjective sensation of happiness until a certain threshold. Once workers hit a limit, the pleasure associated with the amount of cash stops taking effect. There are no universal limits and as a rule of thumb. People are different, so individual needs will change depending on what they think they need.

We also have the productivity-pay gap. Which shows how productivity and payment have had different growth rates since the ’70s. Wanna guess which one is growing faster? The productivity, of course (unless you are working in the mining area). Reducing the work journey in one day is one of the ways to lower this gap, although it should still exist.

In the last few years, we had a bunch of different experiments pointing in that direction. We had Iceland moving 1% of its workforce to 36-week hour shifts. Companies from different proportions are testing and sometimes adopting the 4 days workweeks.

The most vulnerable workforce (not specialized workers, single parents, etc.) are the ones who would probably benefit most from having the option to work 4 days a week, once they are already sub-paid or have a high workload from home duties. Of course, these are the ones with less ability to negotiate it, once this option is most associated with highly specialized who can arrange a lower work time as a perk.

From the productivity perspective, we have a set of different theories and narratives:

  • Productivity will increase because people are healthier and have a better ability to focus and work.
  • Productivity will stay the same because people will figure out how to do their work in the available time.
  • Productivity will drop to lower because people will not do in 32 hours what they use to do in 40 hours.

My guess is that it will vary between these three alternatives depending on the support you have from your workplace and your primary sector. Whether it improves productivity or not, I don’t think it should be considered during decisions or evaluations. And that can be seen as radical. Considering the productivity-pay gap and surplus-value. At the end of the day, if your productivity drops by an equal rate of 20%, your boss will take 20% more time to have the same profit from your work.

The thing is: Does the time with your beloved ones or your mental health worth your boss’ upgrade from a 4-star hotel to a 5-star hotel, or his wife upgrade from business class to first class in her next travel? This answer is up to you.

So long and thanks for all the fish!