Shining a light on Hingham news

The Harborlight

Shining a light on Hingham news

The Harborlight

Shining a light on Hingham news

The Harborlight

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Four-Day Workweeks may be the Way of the Future

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In February of 2022, the country of Belgium became the first European nation to legislate a four day workweek, sending shockwaves through the business world. Although the idea of the four-day workweek has long been discussed as an alternative to the current five-day workweek, the legalization of the four-day workweek without any loss of pay is an unprecedented development as part of a new wave of enthusiasm for the four-day workweek that some analysts believe is in large part due to the covid-19 pandemic, which disrupted the conventional workplace enough such that the entire system has now been called into question. 

Indeed, Belgium isn’t the only country to have taken such radical steps in advancing the four-day workweek. In a 2022 study, also on the heels of the Covid-19 pandemic, 61 UK companies opted to participate in a four-day workweek pilot study, where workers would complete the same amount of work in only 80% of the time. One year later, out of those companies, 89% of the companies opted to keep the four day workweek structure in place, citing positive impacts on staff wellbeing, and lower turnover rates.  Yet, despite the proven effectiveness of the four day workweek, companies in the U.S. are still largely resistant to change the current five day workweek structure that has always been in place. 

While the current American workforce has been slower than Europe to adopt the four day workweek, beyond some pilot programs scattered across the states, there may be some hope among the generation that will enter the workforce in a few years, who, as new entries to the workforce, will likely be the most receptive to new workplace attitudes. 

Gabe Synnott, a senior at HHS who was impressed with the British pilot programs and Belgium’s recent legislation, stated “I absolutely think a four day workweek should be applied in the U.S. Realistically this would start in a manner like the British study, but I hope it will catch on. The only reason I would be against it is if it would cause a reduction in wages, but otherwise I am all for it.” 

While concerns over a wage decrease have been one of the factors that have been considered as part of legalizing a four day workweek, the British study as well as the Belgian legislation advancing the adoption of the four day workweek have no wage decrease, giving hope that the four day workweek is a financially viable alternative to the conventional five days. 

Another senior at HHS, Maisie Knies, voiced a similar view in support of the four day workweek, stating, “If it’s possible to complete a five day workload in four days, then I see no reason to uphold the five-day workweek as the golden standard. Evidently, studies have demonstrated that it is just as possible to complete a normal workload one day sooner than a typical workweek, then that’s evidence that four days of work is more productive than five days and there is no reason to not have a three-day weekend that would benefit everyone’s wellbeing.”

While the general consensus among HHS students is that a four day workweek would be beneficial for the workforce, they did acknowledge there may be some difficulties with considering the four day workweek to the education system. Gabe Synnott stated “I do think that schools applying such a schedule would be detrimental seeing as they are already starting to show signs of slipping behind those of other nations, but if the change in schedule was balanced with more days at the end of the year I wouldn’t be very against it.”

Maisie Knies agreed with Gabe Synnott by opposing a shortening of the school week, instead addressing other needs that need to be addressed within the education system before education is reformed in the same way as the workforce. Maisie Knies stated “unfortunately public schools in Massachusetts are required to be in session for 180 days and I don’t see any way the curriculum could be sped up and just as beneficial with one fewer day a week. Nobody wants to go to school over the summer. Instead of shortening the school week, schools should work on other solutions to mitigate students’ workload like assigning less homework. In general, hours of homework are unhealthy and not beneficial. For instance, Scandinavian schools have greatly limited the amount of homework their students are given and are very successful in educating their youth.”

However slow U.S. companies are to adopt the four day workweek, one thing is certain – the four day work week is gaining popularity worldwide, and it’s not going away anytime soon.

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