The four-day workweek seems like a pipedream to most busy professionals. However, economists believe it is possible, without a catastrophic hit to output.
The reason is simple: we’re already working much less than in the past. In the 19th century, the average person put in 70 to 80 hours of work per week. Now that’s down to 30 to 40 and could fall further under four-day workweek plans.
What’s more, the concept seems to have support across the board. Everyone from workers to the Davos elite thinks it’s a good idea.
What Benefits Does A Four-Day Workweek Offer?
Proponents believe that the benefits of a four-day workweek could be significant. For example, trials suggest that shifting to shorter shift patterns helps people get more done in less time. Instead of standing around the coffee machine or responding to pointless emails, those working these shorter weeks are more likely to focus on work. Incredibly, studies show that workers can get 100% of their work done in 80% of the time if they work less.
Employers generally don’t like the idea of these dramatic changes. Many still believe that remote work is hampering productivity and success. But the data seems to be telling a different story. Individuals who work less and by themselves seem to be getting more done (perhaps because they are less tired and have fewer distractions).
Naturally, the four-day workweek also makes employees happier. Nine out of ten said that they wanted to continue with the four-day workweek arrangements to avoid fatigue, stress, and burnout.
Furthermore, data show that transitioning to a shorter week improves physical and mental health. Employees have more time to focus on their families and pursue their hobbies. Less of the week is taken up by work, making life more flexible and allowing people to pursue non-work activities more, such as spending time with others. Even sleep improved, which had positive knock-on effects on happiness and weight control.
The World Economic Forum also likes the idea of four-day workweeks because of the positive effect it has on the planet. Shorter weeks drop commuting times from 3.6 to 2.5 hours, according to research, and can also cause fewer people to commute by car (presumably because they have the energy to get to work via other means). As such, the four-day workweek could be a behavioral nudge to get people en masse to make better decisions for themselves and the environment.
Finally, a four-day workweek may soon become a business imperative in a talent-starved world. Employers are constantly on the lookout for individuals with the skills they need, and offering a shorter workweek at the same pay might be the only way to get them.
How Is AI Facilitating A Four-Day Workweek?
The benefits of four-day workweeks are clear, but it will only happen with the help of new technology. Businesses need tools that they can use to justify having staff in the office less often to their shareholders.
AI is facilitating a four-day workweek in numerous ways. The first is by helping workers get more done in the time they have available. The best AI search engines for work now let colleagues find the information they need in seconds instead of having to canvas their coworkers for answers.
Guru, a developer that works on these systems, believes that the change is profound. “AI is making it possible for workers to have a desk-side personal assistant throughout their shifts. Instead of approaching colleagues for information, they can simply ask the AI to wade through the company data it has on file.”
For example, a colleague might want to know the company’s position on a specific proposal. Instead of going through various layers of management channels, it can simply get an AI to scan all meeting minutes, white papers, and policy documents for an answer, complete with sources.
The second way AI is facilitating four-day workweeks is by automating many customer-facing tasks. Advanced systems can now resolve client queries without escalating them to a human agent., reducing time spent dealing with problems. Systems can also develop marketing materials, content for social media, and even email replies, saving colleagues typing time.
Finally, AI is also making a difference in optimizing workflows. Workers are finding that the tools can improve efficiency considerably.
Today, we are on the cusp of agentic AIs being able to carry out work on the computer with a simple prompt. For example, workers could type something like “please write a newsletter about the best places to stay in Chile and email it to my customer list” and the system would be able to do it. It could also do things like scanning and processing documents in a fraction of the time that it could take manually.
Of course, the benefits of AI and the four-day workweek will be uneven. While some companies will make the transition, others won’t.
For example, less savvy companies will struggle to adapt to the new reality. Smaller firms may find it too costly to adopt AI solutions, or they might not understand them.
Furthermore, AI might not be able to automate some jobs, making it harder for employees to cram a full week’s worth of productivity into just four days.
Good examples of this include management roles that are already high-level. It is hard to imagine how AI could transform these positions further or reduce the amount of work that these professionals can do.
There are also ethical considerations. Developing AI to give some people four-day workweeks could also create the technology that makes others unemployed. You could have a large cadré of people in cushy, well-paid jobs, and many others kicked out of the labor market entirely.
AI probably isn’t the magic bullet many people imagine. However, it could make a three-day weekend a reality for the majority of the working public. People would have to get used to more time off which would improve their health, help them relax, and spend more time in the community.