Around the globe, workplaces have been doing test runs of the four-day work week with a three-day weekend for their employees, and it’s looking like a near-universal success so far.
Microsoft Japan is the most recent notable practitioner of this initiative. Last month, after giving its employees a longer weekend with no pay cuts or an increase in workday duration, the company reported greater productivity and an overall boost in morale.
Not only did the shorter work week benefit employees – the office buildings also used fewer materials and less electricity, which amounts to less money and resources used.
Looks like a win-win situation for all.
Multiple news outlets over the past decade have reported on this phenomenon, recording the same result: people are happier, and the same – if not more – work is getting done.
So, why don’t we see a widespread shift to this model?
It’s no surprise most people are very unhappy about the way life is supposed to work. The whole adage about going to school so you can get a good 9-to-5 job, sitting all day in an office to be able to afford a house you never spend time in, is, expectedly, not all that appealing.
Humanity has seen some drastic changes in labor laws and culture over the 20th century, regardless of geographical location. And though we might have long outlawed human rights violations in the workplace in the United States, such as child labor, they are far from universally eradicated.
Today, many of the benefits professionals take for granted, such as the five-day, 40-hour work week with paid holidays and sick leave, are the direct result of unions and grassroots labor organizations fighting tooth and nail so that employers could no longer mistreat and take blatant advantage of their workers.
While the labor laws and conventional work week of today were the dream of most in the early 20th century – when the foreman didn’t care if you cut off your hand in the scary machine in the assembly line because they could just as easily replace you – they are inadequate for the highly complicated modern-day world.
In today’s class-rigid societies, where massive wealth disparity proliferates and extensive global human suffering – war, famine, disease, among others – exists as a direct result of such a disparity, it’s hard to be content with following in the footsteps of previous generations and continue with the conventional workweek.
It’s also worth noting the workplace blues and ennui and existential dread that proliferate wherever we work. The ripples of corporate greed have a direct impact on the cultures and environments of the workforce.
When we ask, “Why can’t we have this?” the answer essentially boils down to, “It will cost too much money,” also known as the amount needed to buy a CEO a third summer home.
Constantly thinking of ways to increase revenue and profit at the expense of others drains our souls. Working in customer service and barely getting paid for it takes harsh mental and physical tolls on us.
We hate our lives and our jobs, and we feel as if we can’t do anything about it. The isolation and hopelessness we feel are direct consequences of being underpaid and undervalued in a society where we have no hope and see no future – all because a select few want to hoard billions for themselves.
This is why quantifiable productivity is low – we get tired and sluggish and nihilistic and ask, “What’s the point?” after repeating the same tedious, monotonous tasks over and over and over again until we retire – which most of my generation won’t be able to do – and eventually, die.
Humans are not supposed to live this way – we need variety and the spice of life. We cannot get these from working dead-end jobs, neck-deep in debt and broken dreams.
Yes, we need to keep working to keep the economy, and therefore, society, going – but we need to shift to meaningful, actually productive work that benefits humanity and the world around us.
Those few extra hours in a week to ourselves where we can indulge in our hobbies, spend quality time with our loved ones, and, best of all, sleep in – of course they would make us entirely, unequivocally happier human beings.
If we can continue to change labor laws for the better, we can work toward a healthier, more equal society.
We, as either millennials or Gen Z, need to take a stand. We cannot be complacent with what we have right now when we clearly see the inadequacies.
We will not be given what we want and need if we do not ask for – nay, demand it.
It’s not Mondays we hate – it’s capitalism.
P.S. Unionize your workplace.