Economist John Maynard Keynes predicted in 1930 that in 100 years, technological advances would allow people to work as little as 15 hours a week. We haven’t reached that year yet, but it doesn’t seem likely that his prediction will come true either. Of the 40 hours and the five days, very few have been spared in the last half century. However, what was once a practically impossible utopia is now coming to life with the four-day workday.
Up to 180 companies are already experimenting with it in the world with very positive results, we have told Xataka in several articles. And from all the projects we draw a common conclusion: when employees can reduce their work week from five days to four days, they tend to allocate their new free time to one activity in particular: sleep.
The study. Workers who have been able to change their workweeks in pilot programs to 32 hours logged an average of 7:58 hours of sleep per night, that’s almost an hour more than when they worked 40 hours a week. This is what emerges from an investigation by the sociologist and economist at Boston College Juliet Schor, who is tracking more than 180 organizations worldwide.
That is, employees spent almost seven of their eight recovered hours per week sleeping, rather than doing activities, daily chores, or socializing with friends. The percentage of sleep deprived people (sleeping less than 7 hours a night) fell from 42.6% to 14.5%.
Why? It is the question that goes around our heads. Why do employees who have Fridays off end up sleeping an extra hour every night of the week instead of enjoying leisure, family or friends? Several studies have shown that sleep and work compete with each other. And when you trade sleep for work, you have a big problem: you sacrifice your health and have poor job results.
And of course, when we can have the opportunity to sleep, we always prioritize it. Even when we are unaware that the consequences of sleep deprivation include illness, unethical behavior, decreased work engagement, poorer socialization and irritation, and aggressive leadership tendencies.
Time asleep is time earned. Evidence shows that workers who have tried four-day workweeks saw an improvement in a multitude of measures of well-being and productivity, such as life satisfaction and work-family balance. And the report indicates that these results may be correlated with the additional time they spend sleeping.
Clete Kushida, a professor of sleep medicine at Stanford University, explained in this Bloomberg article that increasing sleep helps workers have a better mood, better short-term memory and concentration, greater executive function skills, and fewer risk behaviors. In fact, research from 2011 found that when members of the Stanford University basketball team added 90 minutes of sleep to their routine, they could run faster and shoot more accurately.
The tendency. The concept of shorter workweeks is gaining traction since the pandemic has upended schedules and flexibility. A remarkable case we explained it in Magnet a few months ago, where the UK undertook the largest experiment to date on the four-day work week with 70 companies from various sectors participating. The project, called 4 Day Week Globalhas already borne its first fruits.
A recent survey concluded that 78% of the leaders of those 70 companies say that their transition was “good” Or they had no problems. More encouraging is that almost all participating companies (86%) indicate that they will keep the schedules after the test ends in November. Still, almost half, 49%, said that productivity had improved, while 46% said that it had remained stable. In other words, 95% performed as well or better than working five days.