When you do the math for the four-day workweek, something doesn't quite compute. For those who put in a 10-hour day for four days, you're still working 40 hours.

In fact, some companies that have experimented by eliminating one day of the workweek have still told employees to work the same number of hours.

That doesn't seem helpful to me.

Before Sanna Marin became Finland's prime minister in December, she suggested something radically different: perhaps one day the country could experiment with either a four-day work week or six-hour work days, perhaps following the lead of other Scandinavian countries. Marin made the remarks over the summer when she was the minister of transport and communications, according to the Washington Post.

Marin is only 34 and started her new role just last month.

I really like her math.

Researchers who have studied the topic from a productivity standpoint do as well.

Six-hour work days would mean a 30-hour week, which might be a little worrisome if you are the employer trying to persuade your staff to actually finish their tasks. 

Sweden has tried a six-hour workday and productivity improved. Microsoft recently announced a successful trial in Japan related to working only four days. The research on this topic suggests that working harder over shorter periods is best because we do optimal work; when we work longer hours, our productivity trails off.

I am living in this scenario and have for many years. I don't keep specific work hours but I know for a fact that I complete most of my tasks in the morning in about a four- to five-hour window. After that, I tend to do more research and miscellaneous tasks.

For me, the morning is when I do the most important work and when I complete the toughest tasks. It has been that way for quite some time.

In the modern workplace? Not so much.

What needs to happen is a shift in mindset from, ironically, a "shift" mindset.

The 40-hour workweek came about because of shift workers in factories. You can blame the Ford Motor Company for that, actually. It instituted shifts for an eight-hour day five days a week way back in 1926. Before that, railroad workers were required to work an eight-hour shift. That all started way back in 1916. It's a bit dated.

We're so far beyond a shift mentality. Most of us still put in hours at night and in the morning, checking email and "working" at the dinner table. It's not about quantity. Workers with integrity and persistence will always get the tasks done and will stay on top of things. 

Forcing them to come into the office every day for eight hours doesn't really make sense.

Do you agree? Have you tried something new with employees or do you work a shorter shift? Post on my Twitter feed with what has worked and not worked at your company.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated Sanna Marin's idea for tweaking the work week: she suggested one day adopting either a four-day work week or six-hour work days. Moreover, Marin's remarks were made prior to her becoming prime minister in December.

Published on: Jan 6, 2020
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