Is it Time for a 4-Day Workweek?

There are countless songs and stories that wax poetic with tender sentiments about fate: “What’s meant to be will always find a way,” or, John Lennon’s crooning, “There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be…” 

But when Independence Day, otherwise known as the Fourth of July, otherwise known as the only nationally recognized US holiday with paid-time-off the entire summer, falls on a Sunday, thus robbing you of a three-day-weekend, a different quote about fate comes to mind: 

“Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant filled with odd little waiters who bring you things you never asked for, and don’t always like.” – Lemony Snicket 

As we shoulder the disappointment that our next three-day-weekend is now two months away, we thought this might be a good opportunity to examine a hot topic in business practice innovation: the 4-day workweek. 

Recent Workplace Innovations

When the pandemic hit in early 2020 and the US went into an extended quarantine lockdown, many businesses pivoted quickly to a work-from-home model, even if it was not an option they offered their employees before. 

There are mixed opinions about this work style, but some of the pros for employers included saving money on overhead costs like rent, supplies, and utilities. It also cut down on everyone’s commute times, as well as the environmental impact of commuting and having a commercial office space. Many employees also reported increased productivity due to a reduction of the distractions and interruptions in the workplace. 

Some cons of the work-from-home (WFH) model included less social time with fellow employees, no in-office perks such as Happy Hours and lunches, difficulty separating work from leisure and family time, and challenges with nuanced communication via exclusively electronic means. 

According to the consulting firm PwC:

  • 83% of employers considered remote work to be a success;
  • 71% of employees considered remote work to be a success; and
  • 52% of bosses thought productivity improved.

The pandemic-induced WFH wave has prompted other discussions about flexible work schedule options for employees, including keeping WFH and/or hybrid WFH/in-office options on the table. It has also opened the minds of American business owners and spurred similar conversations about innovating business practices with the 4-day workweek. 

Potential Benefits of the 4-Day Workweek

A study conducted by the UN’s International Labour Organization revealed that shorter work hours can increase productivity by lowering fatigue, reducing turnover, and improving motivation. There is a correlation between 55+ hour work weeks and stroke and heart disease-related fatalities, so there are also health benefits to take into consideration. 

Furthermore, with an increase in automation in some industries and a relatively stable population, there is also the argument that the 4-day workweek may be a necessary repercussion (and societal benefit) of advanced technology. Remember the old joke from George Jetson, as he’s riding his chute to his commuter vehicle: “These three-day work weeks are murder!” 

Video Source

The Atlantic covered a 4-day workweek experiment conducted by Andrew Barnes, the co-founder of the New Zealand firm Perpetual Guardian which manages wills, estates, and trusts. (And, to be transparent, Barnes is also the co-founder of 4 Day Week Global, so there’s inevitably some bias in his commentary.) 

In 2018, Barnes told his employees that “if they could figure out how to get more done in a day, they could work one fewer day per week.” Some practices that ensued: voluntarily locking away personal phones during work hours, soundproofing workspaces to reduce ambient noise, shortening meetings, setting boundaries around when employees wished to remain undisturbed. Perpetual Guardian reported that their business did not suffer, and Barnes stated that he witnessed a 40% increase in productivity as the result of a 4-day workweek in his business. Thus, the 4-day workweek is still in place at his business three years later. Barnes hopes to see this model turn into a “global movement,” touting the 4-day workweek as “more balanced, sustainable, and equitable.” 

Up until about a century ago, a 6 (or even 7)-day workweek was the standard. The word “weekend” was first recorded in 1879 and was defined as Saturday evening through the following Sunday. In 1908, the first recorded 2-day weekend was instituted by a New England mill who wanted to accommodate both their Jewish employees who needed Saturday off and their Christian workers who observed their religion on Sunday. Because these shorter hours also helped with the underemployment issue during The Great Depression, the 5-day workweek stuck around. 

Looking back at this moment in history further suggests that there could be benefits to employers and the economy if we institute a 4-day workweek, just as there were benefits for employers and the environment as a result of a more pervasive WFH model in 2020. 

Why Wait?

Just like our fate, and which day of the week a holiday falls on each year, the world is always changing. Sometimes these changes are in a direction that we like, and sometimes these changes are not our favorite. Most of the time, the changes are what sophisticated poets call “a mixed bag.”

What we’re trying to say, is – if a 4-day workweek appeals to you, and you haven’t got the time to wait around for society to catch up with your innovative lifestyle ideals, drop us a line and see how NESTIntel can help you manifest the financial freedom that you crave. 

DISCLAIMER: We are here to inform you with real, non-bias financial planning education. We are legally obligated to remind you that the information and opinions shared in this post are for educational (and entertainment) purposes only, and are not investment or financial planning advice. For guidance about your unique goals, reach out at

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  1. […] talked about navigating the “new normal” of working from home, and the growing popularity of a 4-day workweek, and it seems that there are still more workplace innovations to come. We explore what these labor […]

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