Four-day work week gains steam among wealthy - Yahoo Canada, July 9, 2014, Darah Hansen


If Wednesday is “hump day”, then there should be a special name for Thursday that reflects our collective fantasy about the four-day work week.

You don't have to be a 9-5 working stiff to dream about this concept. A survey of millionaire investors in the United States by the Spectrem Group found that even affluent individuals aren't opposed to a more flexible workplace schedule.

When asked their opinion on a shortened work week, 70 per cent of millionaires (those with investible assets of a $1 million or more, not including the primary residence) agreed it was a “valid idea.” Women are the most enthusiastic, with 82 per cent of female respondents throwing their support behind the idea, compared to 62 per cent of men.

Broken down by household income, the biggest supporters of a four-day work schedule are investors who earn less than US$100,000 (76 per cent). Those who make more than $200K are lukewarm to less time on the job, with just over half (56 per cent) agreeing the idea has merit.

An abbreviated work week is nothing new. Credit unions, non-profits and companies, particularly those that are unionized, have long offered flexible and condensed work weeks (meaning you work the standard 40 hours in fewer days or follow a less-formal work schedule) as a way to attract and retain talent.

The David Suzuki Foundation in Vancouver, for instance, advertizes its support for a version of the concept on its website, noting: “We encourage work-life balance with a 4-day compressed workweek and by allowing many staff to work from home.”

Flexibility to combat joblessness?

But there is evidence the four-day work week is gaining steam in the corporate world. The idea got a nod recently from Google co-founder Larry Page who said the notion that everyone needs to work frantically “is just not true."

Page believes in “giving people things to do”, but is convinced we can satisfy our basic needs without working ourselves to the bone.

Speaking at an event organized by the venture-capital firm Khosla Ventures, Page cited billionaire businessman Richard Branson as another voice in favour of a more flexible workforce.

Branson's take on the idea is that part-time work or job-splitting between two people would go a long way to solving unemployment in the United Kingdom and give young workers access to the work experience they desperately need.

Page, who is worth an estimated $32.7 billion, said the same idea would be extended to address global unemployment.

“You just reduce work time. Everyone I've asked — I've asked a lot of people about this. Maybe not you guys. But most people, if I ask them, 'Would you like an extra week of vacation?' They raise their hands, 100 per cent of the people. 'Two-weeks vacation, or a four-day work week?' Everyone will raise their hand,” he said.

Reduced workweek, less stress

The four-day work week is also championed by the medical community as a means to reduce stress levels that can lead to serious physical and mental health issues.

John Ashton, president of the U.K. Faculty of Public Health, told Britain' Guardian newspaperrecently that we need a reduced work week so that we can better enjoy our lives, have more time with families and reduce high blood pressure by giving us the time to exercise.

“When you look at the way we lead our lives, the stress that people are under, the pressure on time and sickness absence, mental health is clearly a major issue. We should be moving towards a four-day week because the problem we have in the world of work is you’ve got a proportion of the population who are working too hard and a proportion that haven’t got jobs,” Ashton told the newspaper.

Of the American millionaires who said they were in favour of the four-day work week, most want to see the 40-hour work week continue. Three-quarters of respondents said they would prefer to work a 10-hour day over four days, while about 25 per cent said they wanted to work just eight hours.


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