Calls for a four-day work working week have increasingly emerged in public discourse in the last five years. Exponents argue that the gradual reduction of labour always has been, and still is, a hallmark of societal progression. The free time made available by technology expediting work should, they argue, be directed towards relationships, leisure, and health, not towards further work. Lifestyles have followed this trend since at least the agricultural revolution, perhaps even earlier.
GlobalData’s new Tech in 2030 report predicts that by 2030, four-day work weeks will be not ubiquitous, but widespread. This transition, it is emphasized, will be led by companies rather than governments. As with other quality-of-life practices, corporate adoption of the four-day work week will be driven by competition for talent.
Covid-19 proved what was possible
The practice gained support during the Covid-19 pandemic. Workers found that more home-based lifestyles were rewarding. According to a Qualtrics survey of over 1000 people, 92% of US employees support a four-day work week and say it would improve their mental health. It also found that when finishing crucial tasks meant that workers could enjoy more time with their family, rather than waiting in the office, their efficiency improved. This is part of the deal companies are proposing. In exchange for a 20% working hours drop with no pay change, workers are expected to maintain their previous output. Time spent idle or distracted must be cut, and all key responsibilities must be fulfilled.
The data available so far suggests that such productivity retention is possible. Microsoft Japan’s 2019 trial resulted in a 40% efficiency gain. Meanwhile, further trials are underway. In June 2022, over 3,300 workers at 70 UK companies began the world’s biggest four-day week trial. Government-led trials will also begin in Spain and Scotland by the end of 2022.
Four-day working and the changing future of work
Four-day work weeks are not the only change to the way we work. The adoption of automation technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics will not lead immediately to the displacement of jobs, but will certainly change the way they are done, as human workers collaborate more and more with supportive robots.
Meanwhile, the metaverse will introduce new possibilities for ‘office’ collaboration and interaction, and the influence of economic and regulatory forces will be felt too. Inflation will mean hiring freezes and redundancies, and regulators are likely to continue their focus on the gig economy and crypto.
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Alongside growing calls for a four-day working week, these changes will ensure that the way in which we work will look vastly different by 2030.