Letter: Four-day work week needs review

While the pandemic has led to a loss of work for many, it has also created a new sector of work-from-home employees, and led to overworking and exhaustion in some fields, as well. One possible solution that is getting a lot of attention as 2022 begins is the concept of a four-day work week, a model that has been trialed and employed at businesses and schools in several countries, including Japan, New Zealand, the United States, and here in Canada. Photo by Josefa N. Diaz.

Editorial note: The following is a submitted Letter to the Editor. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Kingstonist.

For the past two years, we have been focused on the COVID-19 pandemic. There is another epidemic occurring, however. Workplace overwork and burnout is now a major concern for 2022.

This was brewing before the pandemic but seems to be a more pressing concern as of late. Simply doing ‘self-care’ is no longer a solution. We need more creative and forward-thinking solutions that are aligned with the future of work. I propose a four-day work week.

As a Monday-to-Friday office worker, I find my weekday evenings to be mostly a writeoff due to being exhausted from the workday and the growing demands of workloads and tasks many now find on their plate. Saturdays tend to be my ‘life administration’ day, when I do errands, groceries, house cleaning, and general tasks. This leaves Sunday for the potential of a half-day activity or hobby to enjoy life and recharge my batteries for the upcoming work week.

This model of work often leaves me starting the work week on Monday at 50 per cent battery and I am often drained by Thursday. I find most of my colleagues over the years have said the same and secretly have no desire to work on a Friday or Monday, nor do they find they produce their best work on those days. We’re mostly just watching the clock and would rather be doing something else than work. 2021 saw the term “the great resignation/reshuffle/revaluation” make news headlines and spark many articles and podcasts about the future of work post-pandemic.

I understand the four-day work week might not work for everyone, especially hourly workers. Many see this as another white-collar worker privilege. There are books, articles, and experts who argue this model of work can be successful in both white- and blue-collar industries.

If we look at the recent study conducted by Western and York universities with Zorra Township outside of London, Ont., their trial of the four-day work week for municipal staff was not only successful for most staff, but they were also able to have extended hours of operation for their constituents. Some staff have Fridays off, while others have Monday off. They have now made this a permanent model of work for their township.

We also find ourselves in a unique point of history when baby boomers, generation X, millennials, and generation Z are all in the workforce together. I urge decision-makers to consult all generational workers before making decisions, especially gen-Zers and millennials who will be the bulk of the workforce in the next decade, and who are impacted the most by these decisions.

I think workloads have become unsustainable as of late, and perhaps if we carve out time for deep and creative thinking, we could possibly think of ways to consume less, produce less, demand less, and work less for the overall health and survival of the human race.

I would like to see more dialogue in 2022 questioning what we want moving forward in terms of how work fits into our lives in this complex world in which we now live, and if figuring out a way to work four days a week and have three-day weekends might increase worker well-being, productivity, and the fight against climate change.

Nathan Vatcher
Kingston resident

Share your views! Submit a Letter to the Editor or an Op/Ed article to Kingstonist’s Editor-in-Chief Tori Stafford at [email protected].

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