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If you worked a day less each week and got paid the same amount, what would you do with all that free time?
You could reorganize that clutter drawer (who needs that many rubber bands?). You could catch up with a family member. Or you could finally learn Portuguese and surprise your partner when you order fluently at a seaside restaurant in the Azores.
Four-day workweeks are rising in popularity. Most companies involved in the world’s largest four-day workweek trial in the United Kingdom said that they would continue with one fewer workday — about eight hours less of work per week.
We looked at five years of American Time Use Survey (ATUS) data on how Americans spend their weekends versus weekdays to imagine how you might spend all those extra hours, assuming you’d spend your new day off just like a weekend.
Tell us a little more about yourself to see some of the biggest time shifts for someone like you.
In a year someone like you would spend more and less time on ...
Other leisure activities include, in part, sports, exercise, hobbies and relaxing.
The five-day workweek was popularized by automobile tycoon Henry Ford in 1926, when assembly line innovations made it possible for factory workers to produce more cars in fewer hours. Doubling worker pay, the Ford Motor company would go on to reduce working days from seven to five. With more money and free time, Ford realized it gave his workers the possibility to buy more stuff, like his cars.
Economists at the time believed technology would only continue to whittle away working hours. John Maynard Keynes imagined a 15-hour workweek for his grandchildren. In 1933, the U.S. Senate passed a bill to reduce the workweek to 30 hours, but it failed to become law. Two decades later, then-Vice President Richard M. Nixon predicted a 32-hour workweek was not far off. But here we still are, with a standard of five working days.
In the recent U.K. trial, 15 percent of participants said “no amount of money” would persuade them to go back to working five days per week. Companies in a similar U.K. pilot program reported increased revenue, reductions in absenteeism and resignations and improvements in employee well-being.
Employee mental health is an often-cited outcome of shorter working hours, including in earlier four-day work week trials in Iceland. The additional time spent on some of the most popular free time activities, like sleep and household and social activities can be seen building across a person’s working years.
Each year, your time savings add upCumulative time gained by age
Men and women approach days off differently: Men overall spend a bit more of their days off watching TV and caring for others, while women dedicate more time to household work, food and shopping.
Universally, though, we would all get a little bit more streaming-service-and-chill time. If a 21 year-old spent their extra day off like a weekend, they’d get 2,901 hours more of TV time over their working life. That’s enough to watch Oscars winner “Everything Everywhere All at Once” 1,253 times.
Realistically, based on ATUS data, it’s clear that Americans would spend more time doing what they already enjoy: leisurely reading or exercising, meeting up with friends, sleeping and so on. Depending on how that time back is spent, even the planet could get a break.
For a select few — mostly office workers — the shortened workweek is already here. But for hourly workers it would be “a challenge” requiring additional labor reform, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) recently told The Post.
Earlier this month, Takano reintroduced legislation to reduce workweeks to 32-hours. But a new national standard faces slim odds in the Republican-controlled House. Opponents argue the one-size-fits-all approach would worsen existing staff shortages and mean greater overtime pay and logistical burdens for companies. A similar bill failed to pass in California last year.
But proponents see momentum around the four-day workweek building after the pandemic caused many to rethink their relationship to work. As Takano sees it: “what I’m finding is that there is consistent and sustained interest in this reform. It’s not going away.”