Four-day work weeks should be the new norm

With a maximum of 32 hours a week, full-time employees benefit greatly from implementing this less-stress concept.


Mackenzie Conniff

Depending on the individual, a 4 day work week can be beneficial. The induced stress of the pandemic has made it harder for people to maintain their mental health and their life in general. By changing the standard 40 hour work week to 32, employees are less stressed and balanced. “Having the extra week day is incredibly helpful in balancing my personal and work life,” said Amanda Newell, an escrow assistant.

It may seem radical, but the hours within a typical work week have been decreasing since the late 19th century. In 1890, the expected amount of hours a full time employee would work in the United States was 100 hours.

From 1866-1940, laborers gradually gained the rights to a five-day, 40 hour work week. It’s the 21st century, and the current COVID-19 pandemic has influenced America to adapt to catastrophic events; it doesn’t seem too out of the question to shrink 40 hours to 32-28 hours in favor of overworked employees.

The pandemic resulted in many companies having to adapt to more flexible schedules in order to preserve their employees mental health and balance their social/family life along with their work life.

So what does the 4-day work week look like in practice? Well, the answer varies depending on the company. Some may decide to keep the weekly required 40 hours– leaving their employees with 10 hour work days, while other companies may change their hours from 40 to 32, which creates 8 hour work days.

Employers may differ in their approach to the specific days of the week employees come into work; working on the same days or allowing their employees to choose what days they want to work and their hours.

However the approach, a 4-day work week offers potential benefits depending on the person.

“My stress level is down due to the extra time to complete daily chores, medical appointments, and spending time with family. I enjoy my job again as there is less stress attached to it and I feel I am more productive with the 32 hour work week,” expressed Amanda Newell, an escrow assistant at Old Republic Title.

By shortening the work week from five days to four, employees gain back an additional day they get to spend with their family, friends or taking personal time. This makes it easier to balance work and life. It also lessens the likelihood of masses of people burning out and choosing to quit their job, which started during the pandemic and continues to the present– referred to as the “great resignation”.

The “great resignation” or the Big Quit, continues to affect companies and organizations, and has made it more challenging to find people to work. In total, from May to September of 2021, a total of 20.2 million workers left their jobs.

Quarantine and outbreaks of COVID-19 evoked the stress of many families and individuals, not only were people quitting their jobs, but they were also being laid off — which resulted in the family members who still had jobs overworking themselves in order to fill in the extra gaps.

Based on a survey conducted by the tax and professional services firm EY, in the US alone, 58% of managers claim they have worked over 40 hours a week. Of course, managers are not the only ones who work overtime. According to an ADP Research Institute Study, employees globally are working 9.3 hours of unpaid overtime.

Workers are putting in this extra time to either compensate for coworkers who quit or got fired, or to cope with the extra workload that the pandemic created– either way, this amount of work is unreasonable.

“When I was working 40 hours per week, I often worked 3-10 hrs overtime. After a long period of time it caused increased stress and eventually burnout,” Newell said.

Not only has overworking been proven to damage one’s mental health and be counterproductive, but studies show that it can actually promote unhealthy activities such as consuming large amounts of alcohol and the use of tobacco, and many more.

These problems tie to stress, which connect to hormonal imbalances. The hormone that’s specifically affected by stress is called cortisol. Cortisol is your body’s main stress hormone, and it could be considered as a built-in alarm system. It’s responsible for regulating your blood pressure, increasing your blood sugar, controlling your sleep/wake cycle, and boosting your energy so that you can handle stress.

Typically, after the pressure is taken off or the danger is gone, your cortisol levels should lower, and your systems will calm down with it; but what happens when you’re under a constant amount of stress? When you are experiencing unhealthy amounts of stress– which can be induced by working too much — it derails your body’s most important functions, and it can potentially lead to a number of different health problems such as anxiety, depression, headaches, heart disease, memory and concentration problems, digestive problems, trouble sleeping, and weight gain.

Working overtime has increased most workers’ cortisol. The pandemic has created a bigger workload for a majority of companies, this resulted in a mass burnout, which led to the Great Resignitian.

Employees are putting themselves at risk by working a copious amount of overtime, almost all of those risks can be reduced by implementing a 32 hour work week. A 4 day work week includes qualities that will make most workers’ lives better: a better balance of life and work, decreased stress levels, and increased productivity.