Every time there is a long weekend, the talk around the water cooler is always about how good it would be to have a long weekend every week. People may call me a workaholic, but I am one of the few people who quietly disagree. 'Bah humbug!' I hear you say. 'It would be great!' Thankfully, one of people2people's suppliers, GoToMeeting, have done some research and put together an infographic on what a 4 day week may mean, which can be found below. It's an interesting read and not all good news. If you ask the person in the street whether they want a four-day week, the majority are always in favour, 57% in the UK for example. I know that people2people will be asking a similar question in our biannual p2p post, to see what Australians think.
GoToMeeting suggests that we would be healthier with a four-day week primarily because we would have less stress. I'm not sure I entirely agree, and this is not based on any scientific fact, just anecdotal evidence from my relatives when they retire. My father leapt into retirement early, looking to relieve stress and spend more time with his family, and now he wishes he'd stayed working! (That's a blog subject in itself!) Working and going to work is more than hard labour. We are all social animals, and, in general, we like each other's company. As a species, we are tribal and like belonging to a group.
In the 21st century, when we go to work, we also socialise and have a sense of belonging. I am sure that all workplaces are not like this but, in general, going to work is more than the sum of the tasks performed. Pop psychology would suggest that we also must have breaks in our tasks so that we can reboot. I understand that we can concentrate for about foty minutes before needing a break. At work, this doesn't change, and we need to have some downtime.
Most employers know this and allow this in what they expect of their people, the breaks they are entitled to and the levels of activity expected. If we were to reduce the working week to four days, how realistic is it to expect us to maintain our existing productivity? If we don't, then we should expect to reduce our remuneration and, interestingly, the GoToMeeting infographic says that 70% fully expect this to happen. So has anyone done this already? It appears so, with some general success in Scandinavian countries and in companies including Digital Relevance and Treehouse. Interestingly, each of these companies is involved in 21st century industries, such as online education and SEO marketing.
On the negative side, when South Korea dropped to a 5 day working week (from a 6 day working week), they found that satisfaction experienced by households remained exactly the same. There was no net improvement in job or life satisfaction. So, next time you have a long weekend, enjoy it, and have a think about what the real consequences would be if you could have one every week.