A Four Day Workweek Gives You a Lot More Than an Extra Day
I started working four days per week by accident.
In March 2020, my then-employer was cutting back in the early days of the pandemic, and everyone in the company was asked to reduce their hours. At the time, I considered myself lucky that I was only asked to reduce one day per week’s pay, when some of my former colleagues were asked to sacrifice much more.
But now, a year on, a consider myself lucky for another reason: I’ve discovered that working four days a week instead of five is transformative. I had no idea that reducing my working week by 20% and increasing my weekend by 50% would have such an outsized impact on how I felt about not only my work but also what’s possible in my broader life. As many people recast their lives and reconsider what’s possible in the wake of the pandemic, I feel a need to shout it from the rooftops: Working one less day per week may change your life.
You may be thinking … well, yeah, duh. Of course, working less would be great — because not having to work at all would be ideal. But I don’t think most people actually want to cease working, even if they think they do. They want to feel they have more autonomy, more creativity, and more downtime in their week — downtime that’s not occupied by admin, cooking, cleaning, and preparing to, well, go back to work. The four-day work week is a far more attainable and reasonable way to gain that than it might first seem.
In September of last year, I moved on from that job. In considering my new employment setup, I decided I wanted the four-day week to stay — even if it meant earning less money permanently. Prompted by the pandemic, I had already made steps to lower my cost of living by moving to a less expensive place. It seemed a worthwhile tradeoff of earning less money was living more life.
Now, the balance of my weeks feels much saner. I spend four days on a screen, and three days mostly off. My body feels less addled by life in a chair. On my weekday where I don’t work, I spend time volunteering in a garden. Often, when I’m there — pulling weeds, raking leaves, watering seedlings—I find myself mulling over creative ideas or conundrums from my screen life in a way that feels organic, not tortured. I walk away feeling grounded and restored. I have ideas and plans for micro-projects in other areas of my life. I feel less like a person that lives life online, with occasional offline breaks, and more like a person who has a firm foot in both worlds.
You may be unconvinced that this is realistic, and I realize there’s a whole host of reasons why this may not work for everyone. But consider that employers, whether by force or benevolence, have become more open to alternative work arrangements after the grand remote work experiment of the last year. In Europe, some workplaces are opting for a four-day week with full pay, after researchers have shown that workers can be just as productive in four days as they can in five.
If a four-day week results in less income, as it did for me, it’s worth asking yourself what areas of your life you can cut back in service of what you might gain from working less. Having a day in my life that’s not occupied by work, chores, or the slumped-on-a-couch kind of rest you need when all you’ve been doing is work or chores, has made me felt more human. I don’t want or need to work less now. I just want my one day a week.