Opinion: Anyone for a four-day working week?

Opinion: Anyone for a four-day working week?
Illustration by Angela Keoghan
You'd have thought the way business works that a five-day work week came down with Moses on a stone tablet. Actually God's working week was six days, so there's obviously some flexibility there. So why aren't more of us breaking the mould?

Epiphanies come at odd times – like when you’re talking to the cat – and I was sideswiped by one recently, when partaking in a “tax return with wine for one” party. 

This year included a new job with better pay, which meant I briefly imagined all the trinkets and flamingos I could purchase with my somewhat inflated salary. 

Next plan involved the epiphany that if I worked four days a week instead of five I’d be back on my old and reasonably acceptable salary, working one less day and much less of a grumpy pants. 

(Unfortunately, I discussed this with my manager and rearranging my role in that manner isn’t an option. Also, if I’m not there to keep an eye on my desk, the utensil thief who roams our corridors will make off with my precious cutlery.) 

However, this doesn’t mean you can’t try it. It's easy to do the maths - www.paye.net.nz lets you compare scenarios. Will you be much poorer on 80% of your salary once tax kicks in? You’ll be far richer in terms of time – and call me peanutty, but this strikes me as quite the bargain.

There are other reasons to consider a shorter working week: British professor John Aston, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, recently suggested in Britain’s Guardian newspaper: “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.” 

You don’t just get to work less, you get to help others! High five! 

Sydney Morning Herald blogger Tony Featherstone goes further and raises the 20/20 question – could you work 20% fewer hours but increase productivity by 20%, thus not losing any pay but getting in a long weekend each week? 

He also points out the sad fact that your company or your boss needs to trust you’ll still pull your weight, and, as with utensils, trust is often in short supply in the work place.  You can take an even more extreme view, as Timothy Ferriss does in his bestseller The 4-hour work week. I always thought this was nonsense hawked by a fast-talker to lazy people – mainly because it goes against the “rules”.  Now I've changed my mind. Although I like rules, particularly about grammar, I think we’ve shoehorned ourselves into a corner in regards to the working week and it’s time to escape.

Ask yourself why you actually work five days a week (if you do). Use a sock puppet if you have to. If your reply is, “Because that’s how we’ve always done it”, you’re about as smart as someone who puts ants down their pants. 

So break free and have more time for the important things like Coro Street, hang-gliding and slothing. Once my crippling jealousy subsides I’ll doff my hat in your direction – from my desk. ⋅