According to former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, "3-day weekends are better than 2-day weekends." Yang says the U.S.A "should seriously look at 4-day workweeks" and it's something New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is also suggesting businesses look into to help employees and the economy recover from the COVID-19 downturn.
Most working parents would agree with Yang that 3-day weekends are better than the standard Saturday and Sunday, but could it would here? A growing body of evidence suggests it could, and polls suggest American workers overwhelmingly support the idea.
A recent survey by The Harris Poll found 82% of U.S. employees are in favor of moving to a 4-day workweek. These numbers are up since the pandemic as changes in work due to COVID-19 have changed our relationships with work (and our productivity) in so many ways.
And even before the coronavirus strained our work-life balance, companies were finding success with 4-day weeks. An experiment at Microsoft's Japan headquarters last the summer found that when the office closed on Fridays, productivity actually rose by 40%, NPR reports.
In 2018, a company that does will and trust management in New Zealand conducted a similar experiment, paying employees for 40 hours while requiring them to work only 32. They found that productivity stayed the same, but employees reported being more satisfied with their job, feeling less stressed and having a better work-life balance. Again and again, social scientists and economists are making the case that more isn't more when it comes to time spent at work. Reducing hours even has benefits to the environment, resulting in less commuting, and it can lower energy costs for businesses that don't have to maintain lights and climate control in an empty office.
For working parents, cutting a day off the week could reduce the cost of childcare, not to mention increase the amount of time we could spend with our kids. Throw in the possibility of an alternating schedule with a spouse or partner and you might only have to pay for three days of care (if we can get it).
Some experts are hopeful the 4-day workweek will spread. "Hopefully, it gains traction," Eddy Ng, a professor of management at Bucknell University in Pennslyvania told Global News. "I think it's good for productivity, it's good for mental health and it forces us to rethink how we do work."
It's not a one-size-fits-all solution, but this has the potential to be a part of a change in work culture. Work-life balance reforms need to happen, and we need companies to be flexible and innovative to make life easier for working parents. A 4-day workweek is one great idea, but parents also need increased flexibility, and more understanding from coworkers and bosses, no matter how many days per week we're spending in the office.
[A version of this post was originally published November 12, 2019. It has been updated.]