On January 31st of this year, the socialist party, led by Portugal’s Prime Minister António Costa celebrated winning the general election. Mr. Costa’s party won by a landslide and is expected to bring major reforms to the country and implement several campaign pledges.
The 4-day week is on top of this list. It’s an issue that has been gaining traction in many parts of the world. With this victory, Portugal would be the latest country to join trials for a 4-day working week as governments and businesses all over the world are already implementing similar structures.
On January 1st, UAE shifted their workweek to Monday-Friday and reduced the workweek for public sector employees to four-and-a-half days. 25% of private sector companies plan to follow suit as well.
Last year Spain also announced that it will be considering a reduced workweek, and a lot of British companies have already piloted programs to check productivity levels with fewer working hours.
USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Ireland, and others are also running similar schemes, now begs the question — are we witnessing a workweek revolution right now?
From 6 days a week to 5
In 1908, a cotton mill in the US implemented the first 5-day workweek. Before then, people were working 6 days out of the 7 available. The industrial revolution which automated many jobs and increased production, allowed corporations to shift to a shorter week without compromising on productivity.
More than 100 years later, with the rise of the internet and the technological revolution, it’s surprising we haven’t shaved another working day much sooner. It took us a worldwide pandemic, and millions of employees re-evaluating their careers to witness a serious shift in the shape of the workplace.
Thanks to the virus, we are now certain remote work is here to stay and the standard 9 to 5 working structure is no longer the set-in-stone norm. The concept of the 4-day workweek is not COVID induced, but governments and businesses now have concrete data to support making workplace changes because of it.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s talk numbers.…
The numbers don’t lie
Between 2016 and 2018, a small Danish IT company called IIH Nordic, increased its profit by more than 200% by reducing the working week from 40 hours to 35. 200% does seem like an inflated number, but according to bestselling author and workplace consultant Pernille Garde Abildgaard, it’s not the only metric that went up for IIH.
With the reduced work hours, wellness increased, relationships between peers became better, happiness soared, and personal growth went through the roof! Abildgaard argues, working 60-hour weeks has never really been efficient.
Our productivity is solely and directly linked to our brain. As long as our brain is our main production facility, it will be the intensity of our work dictating how many tasks get done in a day, not the amount of time put in.
You probably know plenty of people who spend most of their working day jumping from one Zoom call to the next. In fact, you might actually be one yourself. Well, have you wondered why there are always too many people on these calls and why not a lot gets done? You end up spending 30 minutes to an hour on each one of them just because it’s a default setting on Outlook!
Our brains are usually most productive in the golden hours of the morning, so instead of wasting our time checking emails and handling multiple tasks during this time, it would be wise to put 1 task in mind, complete it and then move on to the next.
If we expect any of the countries currently running 4-day workweek trials to succeed, we need to stop wasting time and be more efficient.
Speaking of time
Time is our most precious commodity. In his special theory of relativity, Albert Einstein declared time is relative. This means the rate at which time passes depends on a point of reference. What if your well-being is your point of reference? Or perhaps it’s your youth or mental health. Isn’t your time an even more valuable resource when these are all on the line? Imagine what you can do with an extra day on your hands.
“Karoshi”, or death by overwork is a real thing in Japan. The Japanese parliament is actively discussing legislation to give employees 3-day weekends so that workers can pursue their passions and have time for leisure. This is already being implemented by several corporations in Tokyo without seeing any drop in productivity.
The Elusive Work/Life Balance
It can be incredibly easy to get lost in our job and let it define who we are. This is only human, and it’s understandable. At the end of the day, our job is very important. It puts a roof over our heads, it gives us our status in society, and it connects us with other like-minded people… it’s social and we are social creatures. However, there mustn't be a tradeoff.
Imagine if you could spend your Fridays with your family instead of at the office. What if you finally had the time to start your own business or write that novel you always wanted to write?
To find an elusive work/life balance, we need to be highly productive and have a higher quality life, instead of running aimlessly in a hamster wheel and wasting our time. We need visionary and opportunistic business owners and governments to attract the brightest minds while still providing them with the opportunity to pursue their personal interests. This can only be positive for everyone in society.
The movement we are seeing in the world right now is a great start. With all the countries currently running trail, it seems like the revolution has already began.
Which side will you be on?
Hadi El Talje is one of 7 billion human beings living on a tiny blue ball floating in the vastness of space. He hopes his writing intrigues your mind and inspires you to be true to who you really are. For writing opportunities, connect with Hadi.