Take a moment to imagine it: A three-day weekend, every weekend.
Time for unavoidable chores like laundry, yes. But also plenty of time left over to, you know, breathe. Do something fun on your own or with your family or friends. Or maybe even several fun things, because you actually have time for them.
But maybe most important of all, time to simply enjoy our lives a bit more without defining them via what we do.
While all this sounds like the idle fantasy of the painfully overworked, it’s actually grown into something much more than that. America looked on with jealousy as many Europeans adapted the four-day work week, going as far as to make it standard across the entirety of Belgium.
“You’d never see that here,” many a U.S. employee muttered as they crawled into yet another 60+ hour week.
But somehow, some way, the movement keeps growing. Even the infamously-overworked Japan is trying it out, with Panasonic (PCRFY) offering it as an official option for all employees.
In many places where it’s not official yet, trials of how it affects employee mental health are being conducted, including Iceland, Spain, the U.K., and —yes — even America.
What Companies Offer a Four-Day Work Week Now?
For smaller, often all-remote businesses, it made sense to simply log on to a laptop at home then to pay to rent a physical office space.
The video game industry also embraced the trend early on, and while it was also just indies at first, Eidos Montreal (EIDX) – Get Eidos Therapeutics Inc Report was the first big budget studio to get on board in October 2021.
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Microsoft (MSFT) – Get Microsoft Corporation Report also tested it out in Japan in 2019, and Shake Shack (SHAK) – Get Shake Shack, Inc. Class A Report was testing a trial as well, which went on pause when the pandemic hit.
Why The Four-Day Work Week is Gaining Momentum
According to Joe O’Connor, Global Chief Executive Officer of the 4 Day Week Global Foundation, many more companies are in the testing phase as well.
“38 companies recruited across the U.S. and Canada are currently in the trial, with most starting April 1,” O’Connor told TheStreet in a phone interview.
“We’ve moved on from the point of advocating to responding to this rolling ball of more and more companies and governments interested [to give it a try].”
Founded in 2018, the 4 Day Week Global Foundation is a not-for-profit community created by philanthropists Andrew Barnes and Charlotte Lockhart to provide support for businesses that want to try out a four-day work week.
It offers a pilot program, as well as extensive data on how a four-day work week affects employee happiness, productivity, and more.
O’Connor says Covid played a big role in encouraging more companies to consider offering a four-day work week.
“These long-ingrained societal and cultural norms, it takes big disruptors to move these things,” he said.
“But [the pandemic has] also turned the four-day work week into a competitive issue. A few years ago, companies were looking to it for productivity and well-being. Now, people are coming to us to try to give themselves an edge to retain better people.”
When it comes to working from home or hybrid, O’Connor says that offering these are no longer a competitive advantage, but a basic expectation after Covid spotlighted just many people could work remotely.
“Quality of life has become the new frontier for competition, especially for younger workers,” he said.
But can we really expect to see the four day workweek become a possibility for all of us, especially those working for large scale companies? O’Connor says yes, he’s seeing it happening in real time.
“If you’re a small start-up, the bureaucracy is much lesser and it’s easier to make it happen,” he says. “But we’ve seen bigger companies going for the trial now (such as Unilever’s (UL) – Get Unilever Plc Report New Zealand branch). Maybe running a targeted trial is a good way to test it out.”