A four-day workweek should be the new normal as it is the first step toward reconstructing the harmful work culture that affects employees all over the country.
Workers in U.S. are stressed now more than they were in 2020 with stress levels reaching an all-time high. Low pay, production prioritization and long hours contribute to this stress and it only grows when no efforts are done to change the system.
On average, Americans end up working an extra month of work per year. Whether it’s a push from their employees or an attempt to make ends meet, the work culture in America pushes the agenda that people are machines meant to work and not do anything else.
This is something that needs to change.
The way capitalistic societies are built are to profit off of ‘hard work’ when only a certain few will have that work pay off in the end.
A new term that emerged called chrononormativity explores how society uses time as a measurement to push our bodies to the limit and achieve success through socially constructed means that not everyone can achieve.
For example, once you turn 18, you’re expected to go to college, or by 25 you are expected to have a stable job, a significant other and possibly a home. By 60, you are meant to retire.
All of these are learned through what society deems to be acceptable chronological milestones.
Nowadays, people are achieving different milestones at different stages in their lives which does not match the model society has thrusted forward.
Race, gender, nationality, class, sexuality and other demographics all play a part in when and how people achieve these milestones as not everyone is given the same opportunities.
If someone falls out of line, they are urged to get back on their feet or else fame shame, stress or belittlement by others.
No one pauses to question why you have to accomplish things by a certain age or why the solution is to continue following a timeline that does not align with everyone’s personal goals or aspirations.
The same could be said about the classic five-day workweek. Working 40 hours or more a week is just not sustainable anymore, especially if the pay stays the same while other prices continue to rise.
There once was a period of time where the six-day work week and no labor laws was the norm but with persistent activism, things changed.
There needs to be flexibility when it comes to how much time you should spend working in order to improve not only the human condition but to lead fulfilling lives.
Society is heavily focused on pushing out max productivity from people rather than recognizing that they are individuals with their own personhood outside of the workplace.
During the pandemic, the work culture drastically changed as a majority of employees transitioned to remote work. Working from home became the new ‘normal’ for society and it was one of the first moves that made people realize that there could be a change in the workplace.
If remote work was possible, the push for a four-day workweek did not seem so far away.
In 2022, 4 Day Week Global implemented a trial to try and implement a 32-hour work week which gained positive responses. Out of all the employees, 97 percent of them wanted to continue the trial as stress, burnout and fatigue levels declined throughout the six months.
Companies were later asked if they would like to continue the trial and out of the 27 who filled out the final survey, 18 were positive about continuing.
Just from this trial, it proves that change is long overdue with how much time people spend at work when they should be spending it doing something else.
States like Maryland are already pushing toward a four-day workweek as they realize the benefits that come with the decision.
A four-day workweek would not only ease the burden off of many workers but also give them more time to pursue personal endeavors that are not possible with the highly demanding five-day work week.
The pandemic, although a disastrous period for many, showed that adjustments can be made if circumstances change. If remote work was able to be implemented, a four-day workweek is soon to follow.
Once people have a taste of what it’s like to live without the strict, never-ending cycle of America’s capitalistic society, there is no going back.
Cindy Rivas Alfaro is a journalism sophomore major who can be reached ay [email protected]