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News

Many Americans Consider the Benefits of a Four-Day Workweek

By:
S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Apr 3, 2023

GettyImages-1209818926-four-day-work-week-240

Working less than five days a week can provide certain benefits for Americans who choose to do so, and that has many wondering if their lives would be better if they worked less, The Wall Street Journal reported.

More than 22 million Americans worked part time voluntarily, as of Janaury 2023, up from 20.2 million the prior year. A pilot program in the United Kingdom showed support for a four-day workweek and a four-day workweek bill was reintroduced in Congress.

“You have this sense of, you’ve taken control of your life,” said Kevin Richardson, who works about 25 hours for a small creative agency. “You see the work as part of your life, rather than the center.”

Even highly-trained professionals have made the change. Neurosurgeon Stephen E. Griffith worked up to 80 hours a week at a Kansas City, Mo., hospital before leaving his practice to work for one-half to two-thirds of the hours he used to work for a medical staffing agency. He told the Journal that he goes on midmorning jogs with his wife, drives his children to music class and takes more vacations.

Though he and his wife, a doctor who already worked part time, no longer worry about paid child care and can relocate when they want, there are other issues. They have not been able to save enough to buy a house, and the nature of freelance work means that either of them could go without work at any time. They, as many others in their position, also lack company health insurance and paid time off.

While work provides structure and self-esteem, it only does so to a certain extent, according to Cambridge University sociologist Brendan Burchell. A 2019 paper that he co-authored found that people performing one to eight hours of paid work a week got the same mental health boost, such as less anxiety and less depression, as those who work 44 to 48 hours a week.

In the future, “We’ll look back and think, why did we all work five days?” he told the Journal.

The part-time business model can also work for employers such as sales consulting businesswoman Sam McKenna, who mostly employs part-timers. “We don’t have people who we’re paying 40 hours who only need 20 hours to get their jobs done,” she said. “We don’t pay overly competitive salaries. We don’t have health benefits.”  

After leaving her job at LinkedIn to launch the business in late 2019 with a goal of making half the money she made in half the time she used to spend working, she found herself working 60 hours a week to keep up with demand. “You can only do so much part-time,” she said.

Environmental engineer Megan Neiderhiser believed that a shortened schedule makes her more productive. She now works 30 hours a week, but aims for the same revenue targets as her full-time colleagues. Fridays are her relaxation and family days, and she told the Journal that she has better ideas and a better attitude come Monday.

“I’m just convinced this is my top performance,” she said.