Imagine a reality where Fridays were officially considered as part of the weekend. Would you be grateful for the extra time? Could less work alleviate the pangs of labour and improve the wellbeing of dedicated employees?
Canadians are among several people across the globe who are in favour of the fanciful concept. Four years ago, a petition to give Canadians three-day weekends managed to receive the support of 49,963 people before it was closed. Currently, a similar petition has been started, and while it doesn't seem to have gained significant momentum yet, it does show some signs of traction.
It's not outrageous to desire less work hours. The reality is that many of us are working too much; sometimes to the point where we forget to live altogether. Because we work to live, we also live to work by default. It's a depressing cycle, and many people are seeking to establish a better equilibrium.
But would three-day weekends actually be beneficial for society? Some experts believe so, claiming that workers demonstrate higher levels of productivity during shorter periods of labour. Psychologist K. Anders Ericsson devised multiple experiments under a "10,000-hour rule", which states that it takes at least 10,000 hours to master a certain craft or practice. He was able to show that most people are able to commit to four or five hours of concentrated work at a time before their peak performance begins to decline. The studies also noted that when workers are pushed beyond the period that they function optimally, bad habits are more likely to develop.
More than this, there's solid evidence that spending less time working makes people happier and healthier. It just makes sense - their lives become more balanced, with more time available to focus on the things they love, like their families, relationships and personal interests. This reduces their level of stress dramatically.
The result of this heightened mood is a productivity boost that could end up benefiting companies economically. Industry giants like Amazon and Uniqlo have both experimented with four-day work weeks, and they noted that their employees were visibly happier and more productive.
However, four-day work weeks are obviously not something that can simply be achieved with the snap of a finger - several compromises would still have to be made to ensure no one loses out. Among these are an increase in wages, and the need to redistribute the reduced hours worked by some to other workers. The shift in payroll and scheduling could constitute a pretty sizeable restructuring of a company's already established systems.
All in all, while it's still unclear what the "productivity sweet spot" really is, the evidence suggests that 40 hours isn't it.