The Issue with Four-Day Workweeks


The disruption of a five-day work week in favor of four days is becoming increasingly popular, but is it really a change that our society is ready to make?

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses to change their means of operation in 2020, effectively ending the traditional nine-to-five hour work day. This sudden shutdown also led to millions of American white-collar workers completing their office work at home, lessening the divide between work and life. With many businesses reopening their doors to workers eager to leave home desks and Zoom backgrounds behind, some employees demand that employers shorten the traditional five-day workweek to four. 

Shortening the workweek from five days to four days is proven to combat burnout due to the extra rest day and more schedule flexibility as a result. Businesses that implemented the four day workweek also saw an improvement in employee stress levels, satisfaction and cost-efficiency. 

However, not everyone reaps the benefits of a shortened workweek. While the extra day off merited better mental health for all workforce participants in a study by Forbes Magazine, it only maximized cost-efficiency when applied to employees with high-paying jobs. 

Because garnering profit is the priority for most companies, these four-day workweeks would not be offered to everyone even if implemented. Janitors, cooks, heavy-machinery operators and others working physically demanding jobs could not be afforded the same luxuries as their white-collar counterparts working in more comfortable, climate-controlled environments. Four-day workweeks are not an option for the demographic that needs it most, so it is absurd to advocate for or to implement them until they are fully accessible. 

Worker exploitation in jobs that require menial labor is extremely common.. US farmhands, construction workers and factory workers are paid on average $75,000 less, have longer hours and are constantly threatened with replacement if they don’t follow highly specific instructions

Since immigrants make up 20 percent of the workforce in labor-intensive jobs, their employers often place them in inhumane working conditions. Workers typically comply with such working conditions because they are either unaware of their rights or face the threat of deportation if they attempt to resist. 

Those for the four-day workweek argued that work is currently completed at a much faster pace than before the pandemic. A project that initially needed five days to complete could now be shortened to four. The Forbes Finance Council stated that this sudden acceleration in work can lead to severe employee burnout and decreased productivity. 

Despite the drawbacks of a traditional workweek, the reality these workers face is that a four-day workweek is not only unreasonable but unfathomable. The American justice system has flaws that obstruct workers from reasonable wages and better working conditions, including these shorter weeks. Unionization and the protection of blue-collar rights are more nuanced than asking for fewer days in a workweek. The advocacy of this shortened week, while only feasible for higher-paid employees, is unfair to those who do not yet have access. 

Although it is important to recognize the struggles of those in white-collar jobs, implementation of the four-day workweek so everyone can benefit from it is the better long-term solution.