3-day weekends could make people happier and more productive

Dean Drobot / ShutterstockA four-day workweek could make people happier.
  • Scientific studies have found a link between happiness and productivity.
  • People tend to be happier when they have more time to do the things they enjoy.
  • This bolsters an argument for a four-day workweek and three-day weekend, as it could give people more free time to do just that.
  • But as with anything, there would be people who take advantage and those who’d have to pick up the slack.

On Mondays, the week ahead can look incredibly long, but the idea of heading to work five days a week could eventually be left in the past – at least, that’s what unions in the UK have been calling for recently.

According to Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, an associate professor of economics and strategy at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, a good work-life balance, with time for people to do the things they enjoy, is a top priority for satisfaction – and one way to achieve this could be a three-day weekend.

“I would argue the four-day working week is spot on in terms of finding or striking that right balance between improving the work-life balance and unlocking the happiness potential from that in terms of productivity gains,” De Neve told BBC World News on Friday. “This outweighs the net reduction in productivity from working a day less.”

An eight-week trial conducted in New Zealand earlier this year found that overall a four-day week increased teamwork and work engagement while decreasing workers’ stress. But there were some problems with the study in that some participants had to break out of it to keep up with a busy schedule, suggesting that an extra day off could lead some employees to have to pick up the slack.

The study didn’t find any real improvement in work quality, but participants reported enjoying having a three-day weekend.

“When you are more positive about your job and your life while on the job, it relates to being able to be more productive,” De Neve said.

A 2015 study from Warwick University seems to bolster the idea of a four-day workweek and three-day weekend. It found that participants were 8-12% more productive when they were given chocolate or listened to a comedy clip before a task, as opposed to thinking and writing about a family loss; in other words, manipulating workers’ happiness seemed to affect how efficiently they did a job.

There might not be an immediate change in productivity with the introduction of a four-day workweek, but with less time to kill at work, employees may procrastinate less (though there would always be those who try to take advantage).

More evidence is likely needed before we could see a major adjustment to the way we work. But it wasn’t until the 20th century that businesses decided a five-day week was optimal and started giving workers Saturday off, so there’s no reason to believe it couldn’t happen again.

Correction: A previous version of this article included a study that supposedly supported the idea of a four-day workweek, but it was removed from the original news outlet.

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