Arden is not alone in thinking the four-day week might be an appropriate method for transitioning people back into the workplace. A recent piece in The Atlantic suggests that as social-distancing restrictions ease, reducing workers’ hours while maintaining their salaries could help reduce the number of people who need to be in an office at once, lowering the risk of infection (according to the article, 70 percent of offices in America are open-plan — making operating in accordance with social-distancing mandates a challenge). The author reasons that “to follow [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] recommendations and enforce social distancing in the office without leasing new square footage, companies will have to reduce the number of people in an office by about half.” This strategy is even more relevant for workers who must be physically present to do their jobs — those who clock in to factories, warehouses, farms, and so forth.
But the best reasons to implement the four-day week were apparent before the pandemic and have only grown more urgent over the past few months. Recent data reviewed by 24/7 Wall St. indicates that the average American full-time employee works 41.5 hours a week, while about 11 percent of full-time employees work more than 50 hours per week. That’s a lot of waking hours spent at work, and these numbers don’t take into account the growing faction of misclassified and gig-economy workers, many with multiple jobs and even longer hours. Cut editor Melissa Dahl has previously pointed out a host of benefits associated with a shorter workweek. Studies and common sense suggest that a four-day workweek would result in a healthier, less miserable, more rested, and even more productive workforce. According to Dahl, you’d also “be less of a jerk, probably.” Research conducted on Microsoft workers in Japan last year showed that allowing workers to punch in four days a week and receive their regular five-day paycheck yielded a 40 percent productivity boost. Employers also saved on electricity, because the workspace was closed an extra day. Conscious of balancing newly trimmed schedules, managers also saved time by cutting down the amount of time employees spent in meetings — which, as we all know, do not need to be that long.