We’re overworked. We’re tired. We’re unhealthy. We’re burned out. These are sentiments that, more or less, follow the traditional working model — a framework that includes eight-hour workdays, performed five days a week, that will probably leave you with tasks still left to do at the end of the day.
We’re working ourselves to death. This is not hyperbole, merely a fact. And if the pandemic has informed us anything about otherwise prearranged normalities… it’s that we should change them, altogether. How we work — why we work; how often we work; the mechanisms and mantras and motivations that surround a role that consumes about 35% of our waking hours in any single week — have all been upended.
The traditional five-day workweek blueprint isn’t performing; it hasn’t for quite some time.
An experiment conducted in Iceland between 2015 and 2019 found that implementing a four-day workweek — while keeping employee pay the same — saw an increased rate of productivity. Researchers who participated in the study also reported lower burnout and higher levels of well-being among employees with a four-day workweek; The Atlantic recently published a deep dive into both the merits and fundamentals of the four-day workweek — which found that employees are, across the board, “healthier, happier, and less time-pressured.”
These findings are notable as they apply to our modern-day work structures. Initially, the five-day workweek, which included at least eight-hour workdays, can trace its inception back to the early 1920s — a time when the average factory employee was expected to clock in between 47 and 52 hours a week. It wasn’t until a decade later that Ford Motor Company would then enact a company-wide policy that expected people to work 40 hours, five days a week. (Founder and then-CEO Henry Ford signed off on the edict after he discovered through his own research and observations that working more yielded a disproportionately small increase in productivity that lasted only a short period of time.)
The pandemic has proved that the image of “working smart,” as it were, should take complete precedence over “working more.” After all: Recent findings suggest that after 4 hours of concentrated work, productivity, as well as satisfaction in a job role, begin to dramatically decline.
Working inside the expected criteria of having steady employment comes with an inescapable bit of theatrics. There are the commutes; the in-office socializing; a never-ending amount of hollow meetings and pointless presentations that leave one bemoaning how little they’ve accomplished. It’s all a facade of busyness, frankly.
And again: This is all killing us. It leaves little room for imagination as to why millions of Americans resigned from their current roles in 2022 — a year that’s since been described as “The Great Resignation.”
There’s even an anthem for it. But that tune didn’t have the staying power it should’ve had.
The tail end of this year has seen a collection of massive, widespread layoffs across the work sector. Tech, specifically, has seen thousands let go from companies like Amazon and, of course, Twitter. New data collected by Glassdoor — a site where employees anonymously review the companies they work for — shows mentions of “burnout” are up more than 40% this year compared with 2019.
In a day and age where conspiracy theories and misinformation is rife, it comes off as oddly Orwellian to describe five-day workweeks as… well, working for us nowadays. Because they’re not, at all. We patently know this is a falsehood; the peer-reviewed data is unignorable.
2022 should’ve been a twelve-month span of time where we collectively actualized our denouncement around working norms
So, let’s let 2023 be the year of four-day workweeks (new loves, deeper friendships, and a renewed relationship with our self-worth that exists outside the canon of productivity).