Could everyone work a four-day week?

16 August 2020

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As more work is automated and more studies prove that less time spent at work can actually lead to higher productivity, the concept of full-time pay for a four-day workweek is growing in popularity. Respondents to our recent LinkedIn poll certainly see the potential, with 88% of you saying you’d ‘love’ a four-day week, and only 12% responding, ‘No, it wouldn’t work for me.’

But how do we take the four-day workweek from a good idea to near-universal reality?

One important thing to acknowledge is that the transition won’t look the same for every company. Most examples of this model working well come from office-based roles where teams work on long-term projects. For jobs that are physically service-based—teachers, for example, or airline pilots—the benefit may be real, but the transition would not be as straightforward, and may not make sense in financial terms because it would virtually necessitate hiring more personnel.

There is also concern that in sectors such as manufacturing, the productivity benefits of automation and a shorter workweek will not be passed on to workers. This is a legitimate concern, as members of the essential hourly-paid labour force are often the last to get a slice when corporate profits go up. Only regulation about profit allocation, or possibly a government stipend for workers in these fields, would prevent a situation of heavy job or wage loss.

It can also be difficult to transition to a four-day workweek gradually, a few team members at a time. Businesses will have to respond to these challenges if we are to create a new standard to improve wellbeing across the board. While we await the policy intervention that’s likely to prove necessary, we can innovate on a job-by-job basis and invest in the long-term payoff of a new approach to work.

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