Earlier this week, Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim got the attention of working people everywhere by suggesting a move to a 3-day workweek.
In his plan, people would work three 11-hour days in a row before taking off the next four days.
Today, British billionaire Richard Branson wrote a blog post proclaiming that Slim’s proposal “could work” and that people should be encouraged to work “when, where and how they like, in order to get the best results possible.”
But as tantalising as a 3-day workweek sounds, it’s just not all that practical.
Dr. Kenneth Matos, director of research at Families and Work Institute, a nonprofit thinktank, spoke to us earlier this week about why Slim’s plan is more likely a pipe dream than a possibility.
For starters, Matos notes, even 11-hour days would mean that a 3-day workweek would total just 33 hours of work. As such, full-time workers would likely be putting in fewer hours than they are now.
This would be a major issue for workers who are paid by the hour. Many of those workers — the ones who had previously been working 40 hours a week — would need to take on a second job to make up the lost income they’d need to pay rent, buy groceries, and afford other vital expenses.
Salaried employees could conceivably get as much done in 33 hours as they would in 40, but they, too, would have significant issues with the 3-day workweek — especially if they tried to make up the additional two days off by working 13-hour days for a 39-hour workweek.
Such a schedule would allow for virtually zero free time during the 3-day week, which would be a major issue for people with additional responsibilities outside of their jobs, especially parents.
“A lot of life can’t be scheduled so conveniently to say, ‘It’s got to wait three days,'” Matos said. “Saying, ‘Today, I work and do nothing else’ is not always a viable option for a great many people.”
Matos noted that both an 11-hour day and a 13-hour day sounded unpleasant to him, and added that the longer work day could be additionally difficult for people whose jobs require creative thinking.
“One of the things that research has shown is that people can exhaust their mental resources, and they don’t recover within a couple of minutes,” he said. “You might need to step away for a few hours. If you’re just pushing through, that might not work for your creative process.”
Still, Matos stressed that there was a lot of value in Slim getting people to reconsider our work schedules, adding that he himself doesn’t necessarily think the the five-day workweek should remain static.
“Could the 3-day work be done?” Matos asked. “Yeah, but I don’t think many people would sign up for it.”
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