The four-day work week

The idea: Allow (and encourage) employees to work four 10 hour days each week as opposed to five 8 hour days.

Why it makes sense: Although the idea of working ten hour days might not sound particularly desirable, just consider this: Workers on four/10 schedules receive an extra 52 days off each year. When you factor in weekends, plus the extra day and any annual leave, workers in, say, the UK would find themselves spending only one out of every two days in the office.

The psychological and economic benefits of working a four/10 week can be significant. When the state of Utah introduced a four-day work week for public sector employees after the 2008 recession, eight out of ten workers said they wanted the scheme to continue, citing improvements in productivity and a reduction in conflicts at home. Families on four/10 structures can save significant amounts on childcare, and for those without children, the extra 52 days can be used to pursue other interests, including education and further training.

The four-day work week doesn’t just, however, benefit workers. The ability to offer potential employees flexibility in their work schedules can be a significant edge for companies attempting to attract talent and retain valuable members of staff.

Could it happen? While the four-day work week wouldn’t be suitable for every company and position, there is certainly a growing trend toward flexible working throughout the western world. A host of tech companies – such as Treehouse, Slingshot SEO, and Basecamp – which have moved away from the five-day structure have reported substantial benefits, suggesting that the four/10 structure might be more viable than it appears prima facie. 

For the idea to catch-on, governments will have to take Utah’s lead and set the trend. If the cost-benefits are found to be significant, the concept of a four-day working week could fast become normalised, allowing it to permeate through the private sector.

Likelihood of happening: 35% (Stranger things have happened).

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