Enjoy your long, Memorial Day weekend? A four day work week (and three day weekends) would lead to a lot less office burnout. Just one of many huge benefits. IMAGE: LaurMG, CC License.
UPDATE: Due to the large response we have gotten from this piece, we have posted a follow-up:
So, did everyone have a good Memorial Day weekend? Whether you were sneaking in a little Spring cleaning, getting out of town or grilling up a storm, I feel safe saying that everyone who had a three-day weekend savored it for all it was worth, and that Tuesday was greeted with a sigh, and not the sort of sigh you make in response to a beautiful sunset.
What if I told you that making every weekend three days (and every work week four days) is a really good idea? And not just for your video game addiction, but also the environment, the economy, and yes, our collective mental health.
Think about it: there is nothing sacred about the pattern of five days on, two days off. It's an absolute miracle that we have the entire world on the same seven day week, and we probably shouldn't mess with that, but what if we made the standard national work week 32 hours instead of 40? Here's what:
1. The environment would heave a giant sigh of relief. The reduction in commuting time alone is reason enough to consider a four day work week. It would be all the better if not everyone took the same three days off: spreading out the traffic would reduce the overall burden.
The economy would react a lot better than you think. Some assume that if you drop everyone's work load from five days to four, the GDP would take a colossal drop itself. Others point out that many people barely scrape by on 40 hours a week. To that second point: it's likely we would need to raise the federal minimum wage, which we ought to do anyway. As for the first point: when do you do most of your spending? Which days are you most likely to go out for a movie or dinner or a day out that involves spending at each stop? Weekends, right? It would be unfair to assume that weekend spending would increase by 50%, but it would increase.
As for who would fill in those extra hours, you do know we have a huge unemployment problem in the U.S., right? There are millions of people ready to work, we just need to find them the hours.
3. You, your friends, your kids, your dog and everyone else would be a lot happier and at least a little healthier. To quote Aesop Rock:
"We the American working population hate the fact that 8 hours a day is wasted on chasing the dreams of someone that isn't us, and we may not hate our jobs, but we hate jobs in general that don't have to do with fighting our own causes."
The 32 hour week won't make you spiritually fulfilled by itself, but it would leave you with more time to pursue your own projects, spend more time with friends and family, and do whatever it is you do when you do what you want. Not only that, but you would spend more time outside, less time sitting, a smaller percentage of your personal time unwinding from your work time.
A shorter work week won't make you a better person, but it will make it a lot easier to be happier and healthier. The consequences wouldn't be 100% positive, and of course there are jobs like doctor, police officer, sanitation worker and others that would have to be on a schedule determined by our needs more than our wants.
But all that said: can you really make the case that this wouldn't be a major net positive?