Why Remote Work May Render the 5-day Workweek Obsolete

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During the conventional 5-day work week, most workers’ productivity levels gradually drop as they move closer to the weekend. Scott Dust, a management professor at the Farmer School of Business, Miami University, believes this signals the format may be outdated. In a recently published Fast Company article, he makes a case for a seven-day workweek with reduced time committed each day. While some see as controversial, read and decide for yourself.

A little over one hundred years ago, a New England mill instituted the five-day workweek to accommodate Jewish and Christian day of rest observances. The masses followed suit. This five days on, two days off cadence still exists, but research suggests it may be inefficient.

In his article published for Fast Company, Scott Dust makes the case that it’s time to get realistic about how people work in the 21st century. To the degree that we can acknowledge what is actually happening—and what is actually effective, Dust suggests we can begin to experiment with work hours in ways that simultaneously increase productivity and well-being.

The Experimental 4-Day Workweek

In an attempt to optimize employees’ work hours, organizations have experimented with a four-day workweek. Research suggests that these condensed work schedules can decrease overall productivity. While a condensed work schedule is accepted practice in some industries (health services, manufacturing), it doesn’t seem geared for the larger workforce as people have come to expect quick response times.

Benefits of Spreading Out Work

Dust asserts that the five-day workweek is a socio-cultural artifact, not an evidence-based framework for maximizing productivity and well-being. One by-product of the pandemic is people spreading their work over a longer time period by necessity (i.e. shared work from home space, needing to provide child care and schooling at home). Spreading work hours across one’s day or week can also increase worker well-being as people have more to for non-work tasks. Research shows that these post-work recovery activities are associated with better next-day performance.

Obstacles of Working Whenever You Want

There are several obstacles when adopting a “log your hours when you can” approach. For instance, many organizations and society overall have institutionalized the weekday/weekend dichotomy. Some organizations can adapt to that but larger, institutionalized systems like schools do not have that kind of flexibility to offer. Additionally, the workers may find themselves at their home office desk on the weekend. This can be balanced by the fact that there was more family time during the week but it is an adjustment for all.

Flexibility Wins

What organizations tend to forget is that their greatest resource—people—is fundamentally different than other elements of the workplace. In his article, Dust summarizes by making the key point that each employee is unique. Everyone has different needs, motivations, values, work-home situations, and more. Flexibility by employers and proving employees with an assortment of options can be an effective approach.

Click here to read the full article.