Four-Day Work Week

Why Saskatchewan Should Adopt It

Recent studies have shown that cutting back hours (while keeping pay the same) improved workers’ well-being and productivity. Iceland trialed a four-day work week with overwhelming success, leading to many workers moving to shorter hours. The trials, in which the workers were paid the same for shorter hours, took place between 2015 and 2019. The results: productivity remained the same or improved in most workplaces. Spain is also piloting the four-day working week because of the challenges of COVID-19.

Employers stepping up

Employers are putting in effort into keeping the ever-evolving workforce (more millennials, or 75 per cent of the workforce by 2025!), Gen Z, everyone in an office job working from home for the past year and a half. Working to truly achieve work-life balance on the employer end is crucial in improving as a society.

In the times of COVID-19, we have learned quickly that work-life balance is achievable for those of us working in office settings. Some days are still busy, lunchtime is just naptime, the commute from the office to the kitchen is shorter, and mornings are slower and sweeter with kids.

What’s the benefit?

We are seeing people do the same or more work with less time. In an ideal world, a six-hour workday, four days a week would likely keep people in typical office settings feeling balanced and happy with working arrangements if the workplace culture is already ideal. Many will agree that a flexible office environment is also appealing. Management must get comfortable with the fact that we have created remote work policies in the last year and a half to be able to use them and have everyone (company included) benefit long-term.

Work, as we have learned over the last few decades, is not always incentivised by pay. Money is not the only carrot that employers in the workforce feed employees to retain their loyalty. People are not rats in mazes and want to see the fruits of their labour appreciated. Working harder makes us love what we are doing to a higher degree.

A shorter work week with the same pay would mean that our efforts are recognized, and that we are trusted as autonomous adults with valuable contributions in the work force. We would see less turnover (because your introverted employees can work from home all but one or two days a month, and your social employees can be there every day or two to three days a week if they like), increased productivity, less waste (time, resources, you name it) and fewer organizational runarounds.

A report commissioned by the 4 Day Week campaign from Platform London also suggested that shorter hours could cut the United Kingdom’s carbon footprint: exactly what the world, and industry-heavy Saskatchewan needs.

“Our analysis shows that shifting to a four-day working week without loss of pay could shrink the UK’s carbon footprint by 127 million tonnes per year by 2025. This represents a reduction of 21.3 per cent and is more than the entire carbon footprint of Switzerland. It is also equivalent to taking 27 million cars off the road – effectively the entire UK private car fleet,” the report states.

The evidence highlights how reducing working hours can lower carbon emissions through a reduction in:

  • Electricity consumption, which is saved in workplaces when people are spending time away from energy-intensive equipment typical to the office.
  • Commuting, since Saskatchewan is not exactly the most walk-friendly place.
  • Household consumption. Surveys of French household expenses showed that those working longer hours have more environmentally damaging patterns of consumption. Why? Because people would be spending less time using screens, more time cooking rather than purchasing packaging-heavy take-out or ready-meals and walk or cycle instead of driving.
  • Shifting towards low-carbon activities. Spending more free time outside of work, including playing, reading, exercising, spending time with family, investing in personal education and the ever evasive “relaxing.”

The evidence shows that “people did not use their free time to consume more, but instead draw more value and wellbeing from their time at home with their relatives.”2

It’s already started

The four-day work week is taking hold in many places around the world. New Zealand financial services provider Perpetual Guardian has been doing it for several years and saw productivity gains of 20 per cent in the pilot. They changed to four-day weeks in 2018, and Unilever PLC is trialing four-day weeks in New Zealand now.

Toronto-based recruitment company, The Leadership Agency, implemented a four-day full work week for employees in October 2020 as a way of helping employees recover from burnout and to improve their quality of life. Employees still receive the same pay and vacation days per year.

A Nova Scotia municipality—Guysborough, N.S—made their change to the four-day week permanent in April after a successful trial with municipal staff.

Other Canadian companies are following suit: video game company Eidos in Montreal switched to a 32-hour work week with no plans to go back to increase working hours, and Winnipeg-based Brandish Marketing Agency has recently decided to hold the switch on permanent four-day work weeks.

It’s also becoming a political platform issue in Ontario, with the provincial Liberal party announcing they will explore the four-day work week if elected in 2022.

It seems the writing is on the wall.

Live to work, or work to live?

Occupational Health and Safety can back up these claims: working too much, too long, and for too many hours is detrimental long-term. Reducing working hours and weeks would allow for an overall healthier, happier society.

The transition from working in the office to working from home five days a week was jarring for many, especially with the uncertain future of returning to the office. Colleagues missed the social life the office offered, but also enjoyed feeling like our homes were in order and we could reconnect with nature, hobbies, and our families. We were able to preserve energy and recharge on our own terms, avoiding energy vampires at work and endless meetings about meetings.

While the expectation for every office to have a nap room is not realistic, simple changes to work expectations can be made to improve working culture, and eventually, society at large.

1,2Stop the Clock: The Environmental Benefits of a Shorter Working Week, 4 Day Week,