Working in office

Workers in Kiev, Ukraine. PICTURE: Alex Kotliarskyi/Unsplash

While the five day working week has been a staple of life in Western nations around the world since the early years of the 20th century, the debate over the pros and cons of dropping a day and allowing employees to work for four days instead of five has recently gained momentum. Most famously, the idea received the backing of Finland's new Prime Minister Sanna Marin, who said last year that people deserved to spend more time "with their families, loved ones, hobbies and other aspects of life, such as culture" and went on to describe the four day week as possibly "the next step for us in working life". She's even suggested that as an alternative, instead of dropping a day, the number of hours worked each day could be dropped back from eight to six. The idea - and we're talking about working less hours by cutting a day for the same money - has also been floated in other nations - including the UK where the Labour Party said it would be a long-term goal before last year's election - while companies large and small - including Microsoft Japan - have been experimenting with the concept in recent years. Advocates - like New Zealand businessman Andrew Barnes who has introduced a four day week at his firm Perpetual Guardian - say the benefits include increased productivity and profitability as well as improved mental health and general wellbeing. But opponents aren't convinced and say introducing a four day week would actually damage productivity and could also lead to expectations from employers that workers would simply be able to squash five days of work into four. Which argument wins remains to be seen but with an increasing focus on work-life balance taking in many countries, we can expect discussions around the concept to continue for the foreseeable future.