In 1926, the founder of the Ford Motor Company Henry Ford suggested in a time when the six-day working week was the norm, that “we should move to a five-day working week” which would double the weekend for workers, and should not affect pay.
The level of productivity from his employees was tested before this statement was made, and it was found that “in changing from six to five days and back again”, that “we can get at least as great production in five days as we can in six”.
Can We Go Further than Henry Ford Did?
John Maynard Keynes, one of the most revered modern economists, predicted in 1930 that the working week of the future will be cut to around 15 hours a week, with plenty of available leisure time to meet the material requirements of individual economic agents.
This would have been made possible by a vast increase in the living standards of progressive economies. Fortunately for the workaholics among us, only the prediction of an increase in living standards has been achieved since this was hypothesised.
Carlos Slim (the world’s fifth richest man) recommended at a business conference in Paraguay that a three day working week is something which should be adopted by companies around the world to improve the quality of life of its employees.
His plan to see the quality of work improve suggests an increase of working hours and people working past the current retirement age of 67 hoping that these negative factors would be offset by the doubling of leisure time.
Carlos Slim’s argument is backed by the fact that changes to the work week at the beginning of the 20th century were done so when life expectancy was much lower, and the standard of living was not as high as it is now.
However, the change from six to five day is relatively smaller than the change from five to three.
Is There Any Evidence to Support a Shorter Work Week?
In 1973 during the coal miners’ strike in the United Kingdom, the Government imposed an emergency three day working week which was in place for three months.
The result of this drop in working hours was observed by economists to only have reduced overall productivity by 6% (from a 40% reduction in hours) that proved how productivity per hour worked had increased significantly.
Furthermore, a similar outcome was achieved by the Australian firm Trico (which deals with freights and cargo transportation).
After enforcing a four day week, their costs actually fell due to not having to run their business on the fifth day, and lost hours were made up for by increased productivity and a reduction in absenteeism from 13.2% to 2.1%.
In addition to the reduction in absenteeism, it would be fair to assume that the potential reduction in time spent at work and increase in available leisure time could also see a significant reduction in cases of depression, stress related diseases and general sickness improving the overall health of workers.
Sleep deprivation which is a major health concern in multiple countries due to working conditions could be be mitigated allowing for greater cognitive performance and increased productivity.
Psychologist Daniel Skarlicki actually observed how employees who feel like they are underpaid for the hours worked are more likely to treat office materials with disrespect and employees who work unpaid overtime are likely to slow down the pace of their work, or increase time spent on breaks, lunch time and through browsing non-work related websites.
These situations point to a feeling of negative emotion, and could easily create workforces which are accustomed to producing lacklustre work, and who do not feel as though they have a vested interest in the success of the company.
Are There Any Other Benefits to a Reduced Work Week?
Increased productivity is not the only observed benefit; the paper called “Will a Shorter Work Week Help to Reduce Unemployment” noted that average weekly working hours in West Germany had reduced by 3% between 1973 and 1979, but simultaneously saw an increase of 480,000 jobs.
Whilst taking into account the reduced demand for labour from higher wages, and increased productivity, this figure was revised to 240,000 jobs.
For a nation such as the United Kingdom which has around 1.3m people currently unemployed, the opportunity to create jobs which would see an increase in total revenue from income taxes and a reduction in social security spending should be seriously considered.
It is often a complaint of the average worker that “the weekend is not long enough” and that they wish they had more time to do the things which interest them (where people are just living to work rather than working to live).
As mentioned before, the increase of leisure time through less working hours could see fewer people suffering mental and physical health issues, more time to pursue more fulfilling activities, and would allow us to spend more time with our family and friends, maintaining and strengthening these relationships to fortify a stronger society.
By having more time to pursue our individual interests would provide a greater sense of control over our lives, increasing efficiency and happiness.
Are There Non-Personal Benefits to a Reduced Work Week?
If you need more convincing, the move to a shorter working week would almost certainly see a reduction in fuel consumption from commuting, less traffic in the roads, less money spent on road maintenance, and less cost due to travel.
I’m sure the advocates of a greener nation will also back the move to a shorter working week if only for these reasons.
The move from a well-established five day working week to anything less may not be entirely practical (e.g. a teacher not being available for the same number of days as present could disrupt the education of our youngest generation), but there are some real economic benefits which could be realised.
While the recommendation seems too drastic, a gradual lessening in the working hours in certain sectors of the economy could serve as a test for its implementation in other areas.
If the Germans and Dutch can provide a stronger economy with shorter working hours than the British and Americans, then why shouldn’t we consider it?
Agreed! I certainly get a productive train of thought that gets interrupted by having to focus entirely on employment. I have to use every Friday evening trying to rekindle my focus on my projects outside of work.
Being more green is the secondmost convincing argument in favour of a shorter working week for me. Unfortunately, most big corporations deny man-made climate change as it obstructs their selfish, profit driven agendas. Nevertheless, being able to spend more time with loved ones and our interests surely would resonate with anyone!
Yes! These are awesome. I need to start spending less if I want to thrive. I am working on finding a balance
My job demands working 5 days a week but I can work from home once a week so quite managing it. Something more than that disturbs the other priorities of life
I was in a position where work was the hardest thing for me to keep on my days. Just like you mentioned, I scroll through sites just to get over my time and finished my day faster. I guess this is such a great topic especially for those who are like me before.
I do agree of having a shorter working week for every employees and I also agree that it will definitely give a lot of good benefits not only for an individual but also with our environment.
its important to have a balance between work and personal life! Perhaps a 4-day work week is the key!
OMG 1000000% yes (also, yes I know that is an impossible percentage). So many other countries are doing this! I want to see this in Canada. It’s important to make sure that the people working are well cared for and well rested and HAPPY. Sure, the higher ups in the company may not be ridiculously rich if they don’t change salaries and have to add more workers, but they will still be super wealthy. This will reduce unemployment, increase morale, and much much more.
That would be a really great thing for normal six days workers. Making the work more productive in just five days ain’t impossible.
I think we can more than thrive with less than a five day workweek and you make a great case!
I just started working four days a week, but they are longer shifts to make up for the day lost. I’ve been much happier with the three day breaks
That would be a really great opportunity for the workers to have a balanced work and life lifestyle. Just let them prove that they can double the effort.. ?
I work full time at home. I choose this to take care of my kids also, but I feel like I can’t have a proper management of my time due to workload.
I agree that we should have a reduced working week. I vote for a three-day working week. In this era, many employees are suffering from depression, loneliness and much more from workplace drama. That means that it’s time we went back to have a breather, spend time with friends and family. That increases productivity because employees become happy ones.
Indeed we need more flexible labor norms as the employees give their best when they are allowed to be flexible and strict standards always gives negative returns.
I have a four day work week and don’t think I could ever go back to 5 days, lol. I’m about to go down to 3 days. I’d rather work less and live a frugal life making less money than spend the majority of my life working. I’m sure many businesses can adapt to giving their employees shorter work weeks.
I can agree with doing more in less than five working week. I feel like if we balanced thing it would definitely work out in the end.
This would be great. For schools as well, my kids would be very happy with three days off school!
I used to work four days a week and it was a BLESSING!
Now I work from home and when I want – but I couldn’t go back to 5 a week!
I feel like it would be a great idea to have shortened work weeks. The downfall would be getting less pay of course, so of wages could also increase it would be a great thing for everyone. Economy is just pretty bad these days, where unfortunately many have to work five or six days to make it by. Our governments should really make a change, and maybe both people, and the earth would be happier and healthier.
Thank you for such an informative post. I think that working 4 days a week is doable, companies just need a way to make it happen, for them everything is about benefits, so they need to know that reducing the working days will bring an important return (ROI).
For solopreneurs or entrepreneurs, I think is a little bit more difficult, there are so many things to do, that reducing the working days can be difficult, at least during the early stages.
Back when I do the 9-5, it’s difficult to find balance between work and personal life. Worse, I do night shifts. I agree it’s better to reduce working days, this will benefit both the employers and employees. Employees will have more time to rest and spend time with family. Employers, they will notice significant amount of productivity since the employees are recharged.
I feel every company could offer a 4 day week or more flexible working. I mean if the job gets done, why not?
Yes, yes, and yes! We can totally thrive in a shorten work week. Iam waiting for that day to come.
I agree with this! I’m working 6 days a week or more it’s so hard to balance my personal and working life 🙁
So it was Ford who we should thank for the 5 day work week. I hope it could brought down to 4.
I think 2 day break is good enough. I would go crazy with more holidays
I used to work four 10’s and I loved having three day weekends!
i’ve long been an advocate of a 4-day work week. Nontraditional work practices, flex work, working from home have all shown to be beneficial to jumps in productivity.
Reduced work week is not really a bad idea as long as the government, or we could support ourselves and our families with a reduced pay if the working days will be reduced to 3 days in a week. It has advantages and disadvantages like you have mentioned above, but it is really doable especially with internet jobs or online jobs nowadays.
I’m hoping that more companies make the switch to a 4 day work week in the future! I have heard many benefits about this in the past and you also provided a lot of new insight. Thanks for sharing!
I agree… 4 working days, or 5 with 6 working hours every day. I think people will be more productive.