One less week day brings more pay for everyone

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One less week day brings more pay for everyone

Grace Bouton

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Many Americans meet their alarm on Monday morning with the desire for a strong cup of coffee and any excuse to have one more day off. However, these feelings, which are often characterized as laziness, may be the answer to both the stagnant levels of productivity in the workplace and the multitude of health issues Americans face every day.

According to the Guardian, after implementing a four-day work week in Microsoft’s offices in Japan this year, worker productivity rose by 40 percent. Beyond just the productivity benefits, the new schedule resulted in a decrease in operational costs for the company, as electricity usage decreased by 23 percent and employees printed 59 percent fewer pages of paper. If this four-day work week was used in America, these savings and increased output by individual firms would allow businesses to lower prices for individual consumers while also benefiting the national economy.

According to the International Labor Organization, increases in labor productivity are the main drivers of economic growth. A four-day work week, and its resulting efficiency, would in part help restore America as a leading economy in a world where countries such as China threaten America’s economic power. A shortened work week seems like an impractical pipe dream, however, its ability to jumpstart stagnant worker productivity and lower utility costs for companies should make all business executives turn this dream into reality for American workers. 

Beyond the economic benefits and savings in companies’ basic costs, a shorter work week also has several environmental advantages. According to a study by the University of Michigan, commercial and industrial sectors of the American economy make up 50.6 percent of the nation’s energy usage. If all companies beside ones that provide necessities like food, gas and medicine, implemented the shortened work week and experienced results similar to that of Microsoft, the nation might see a 10 percent drop in electricity usage. Additionally, one less day of work would bring one less day of commuter traffic and therefore help decrease the carbon footprint left by commuters every day. With catastrophes such as the fires in California and floods in Venice occuring around the world, environmental benefits are yet another reason why American companies should make four-day weeks mandatory.

Though the positives that a shorter week provides for environmental and economic concerns are very significant on a large scale, additional advantages will make this new policy impactful for every American on a daily basis. According to a study by the University of Auckland, the four-day work week resulted in a 24 percent increase in work/life balance and a seven percent decrease in employee stress levels. Most people would conclude that working just four days would result in happier workers, and the additional medical and resulting economic benefits for overall America beg the question: why hasn’t the US switched to a shorter week?

One possible flaw in a revised work week is the expected availability of services from the government and other service-based industries. According to Desert News, a Utah based newspaper, in 2008, the Utah state government introduced a four-day work week for state employees, and quickly faced many resident complaints about not having access to services on Fridays. This was counterproductive, and after three years, they transitioned back to a five-day week. 

This is a valid concern in a setting where only selective governments and companies are shifting to a four-day week. However, if there was a national movement, aided by new government labor standards and incentives for a shortened week, consumers would begin to see Friday, Saturday and Sunday as one and the same, and therefore not expect additional services on Friday. Even with the chance of consumer complaints during the transition to a new week, the larger economic, social and environmental benefits are too great to ignore.

America today is facing a plethora of issues, from the threat of China’s international economic dominance, to medical problems caused by the workplace, to climate change. For most, a four-day work week may seem unconventional or even unrealistic. However, the demonstrated increase in productivity, decrease in stress and increase in environmental benefits should be enough for all workers, politicians and CEOs to demand a shorter work week.