Four-day Week: History
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A four-day week, or a compressed work schedule, is an arrangement where a workplace or school has its employees or students work or attend school over the course of four days per week rather than the more customary five. This arrangement can be a part of flexible working hours, and is sometimes used to cut costs, as seen in the example of the so-called "4/10 work week," where employees work a normal 40 hours across four days, i.e. a "four-ten" week. However, a four-day week can also be a fixed work schedule. More modest attempts to enact a 32-hour workweek (a four-day week and an eight-hour day combined) have remained elusive in the following 80 years despite pockets of residual support.

  • flexible working
  • workweek
  • workplace

1. Rationale

The push towards implementing the 'four-day week' has remained loosely relevant within the contemporary workplace due to the various possible benefits it may yield. Although mostly untested, these benefits mainly lie within increased cost-cutting, productivity and work-life balance. The theory behind this is that by having employees or students work or attend school one less day a week, then they will have additional time to pursue hobbies, spend time with family, get more sleep and increase overall morale. There are several ways the four-day week can take shape. Taking Fridays off, half days, and different days off for different employees are all options that are considered when starting the four-day week. Consequently, these employees or students will be more productive and refreshed for working or learning, which will make up for the lost day where they would otherwise be overworked and/or overtired. In addition, by having the workplace or school open one less day a week, the operating costs and environmental costs will decrease for businesses and society alike.[1]

2. Notable Examples

2.1. Utah State Government

In 2008, employees of the Utah state government all began working ten-hour days from Monday to Thursday.[2][3] By closing state government offices on Fridays, the state expected to save on operating costs such as electricity, heat, air conditioning, and gasoline for state-owned vehicles.[3] Utah ended this practice however, in 2011, with the Utah Legislature overriding Governor Gary Herbert's veto of five-day work week legislation.[4]

Many local governments have had alternative schedules for many years.[5][6][7]

2.2. K-12 Public Schools in the United States

Public schools in Hawaii closed on 17 Fridays in 2010.[8] Over 100 school districts in rural areas in the United States have changed the school week to a four-day week; most also extended each school day by an hour or more.[9][10] The changes were often made in order to save money on transportation, heating, and substitute teachers.[9]

2.3. The Gambia Civil Service

In The Gambia, a four-day work week was introduced for public officials by president Yahya Jammeh, effective 1 February 2013. Working hours were limited to Monday through Thursday, 08:00 to 18:00, with Friday designated as a day of rest to allow residents more time for prayer and agriculture. This regulation was abolished in early 2017 by his successor, president Adama Barrow, who decreed a half-day of work on Fridays.[11]

2.4. Perpetual Guardian Trial in New Zealand

In New Zealand, trust company Perpetual Guardian announced in February 2018 that it would begin trialing a four-day work week in March 2018.[12] The six-week trial, initiated by founder Andrew Barnes, saw the company's 240-plus staff nominating a day off each week whilst still receiving full pay.[13] The trial, held in March and April 2018, attracted international media attention.[14][15][16][17][18] In late March 2018, Barnes noted that the trial was going well with staff reporting more time for their families, hobbies, completing their to-do lists and doing home maintenance.[19][20][21][22]

The trial, which was tracked and assessed by the University of Auckland Business School and Auckland University of Technology,[23][24][25] was described as a success[26] and 'a total win-win'.[27][28] Perpetual Guardian then extended the four-day work week scheme permanently.[29][30] The trial saw increased productivity,[31] customer engagement levels,[32] and staff engagement;[33] reduced staff stress levels;[34] and improved work–life balance.[35][36][37] The company's revenue remained stable while costs went down, due to less power being used throughout the period.

The trial sparked publicity both in New Zealand[23][38][39][40] and internationally.[41][42][43][44][45][46] New Zealand workplace relations minister Iain Lees-Galloway said the trial was 'fascinating'.[47]

The initiative was held up by Barnes as a way of helping to close the gender pay gap and increase diversity in the workforce.[48][49] Barnes also held the scheme up as a potential blueprint for the workplace of the future, ensuring companies were attractive to millennials[50] and easing Auckland's traffic congestion.[51]

However, while four-day work weeks were deemed a success for most, not everyone involved within the Perpetual Guardian trial was able to adapt, with some reporting feeling increased pressure to complete work within a shorter time frame, particularly around deadlines. Other staff reported they were bored on their extra day away from work and missed the work environment.[52]

2.5. United Kingdom, c. 2018–2019

In the United Kingdom, late 2018 and early 2019 saw an increased interest in organisations switching to a four-day work week, including call centre Simply Business,[53] Aizle restaurant in Edinburgh and the productivity firm Think Productive.[54] Research foundation the Wellcome Trust was reported in early 2019 to be considering moving all its employees to a four-day week but ultimately decided against the move after a three-month study.[55] The UK Labour Party, however, has adopted the four day week as official party policy and pledged to shift the country to it (without loss of pay) by 2029, if they won the December 2019 general election.[56][57]

Since the Labour Party lost the 2019 United Kingdom general election, many have worried that the 4 day work week would be abandoned as Labour policy, but former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn assured many, that the loss is merely a set back and not a vote against the policy.[58]

Plymouth based Portcullis Legals also gained significant media exposure in 2019 following their conversion to the four-day working week whilst increasing pay following a 5-month trial and colleague consultation. Portcullis Legals highlighted improvement with productivity and stress levels amongst staff, whilst providing higher levels of satisfaction amongst its clients.[59]

2.6. Microsoft Japan

Microsoft Japan conducted a trial 4-day work week in summer 2019, granting workers paid leave on Fridays. At the same time it cut the length of most meetings from a full hour to half an hour, and capped attendance at five employees. For the duration of the trial, the company reported a 23% reduction in electricity costs.[60]

3. Impact

According to a 2021 study, which examined four-day school weeks in Oregon, the switch to four-day school weeks led to lower test scores in reading and math.[61]

The content is sourced from:


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