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Would a Four-Day Workweek Work?

Many people work five days a week. But studies show that a four-day workweek might be good for workers and companies.

A man in an open shirt and loosened tie sleeps as his phone gives an alert that Friday is part of the weekend.

© Innovatedcaptures/; Animation Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Could workers around the world soon get an extra day off every week? Recently, several studies have shown that reducing a workweek from five days (or 40 hours a week) to four days (or 32 hours a week) has a range of benefits for both companies and employees. 

In the studies, companies that normally operate on a five-day workweek agreed to try out a four-day workweek without lowering their workers’ pay. Most of the companies found that the employees got just as much work done in four days as they had in five days. In some cases, employees got even more work done. Some of the companies found they made more money. And employees said they had more time to rest, exercise, and be with their families. Overall, most of the companies and employees were happier with the four-day workweek—and most of the companies in the studies decided to stick with it.

A four-day workweek wouldn’t be realistic for everyone. The workers in the studies are paid a yearly salary that remains the same no matter how many hours they work. Many workers are paid by the hour. If they worked fewer hours, they would earn less money—unless their hourly wage was increased. And some industries can’t just shut down for an extra day each week. For example, cutting nurses’ hours would require hospitals to hire more people to take care of patients. 

But the buzz around the four-day workweek is getting louder. Researchers say that if the idea catches on, it could be a game changer for millions of workers worldwide.

Did You Know?

Franklin D. Roosevelt sits in front of radio microphones and looks at the camera.

Courtesy of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum website; version date 2009

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, seen here in 1934, signed a law shortening the workweek.

Before the 1930s, U.S. workers who were paid by the hour often worked 10 to 12 hours a day six days a week. In 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act, which limited the workweek to 44 hours for hourly workers. (This was later reduced to 40 hours.) Companies were required to pay anyone working over that limit one-and-a-half times their hourly wage.

Four-Day School Week?

© alexdndz/; Animation Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

People are talking about a four-day workweek. What about a four-day school week?

Some U.S. schools are already operating on four-day schedules. They’ve partly made up for the reduced number of days by extending the school day an average of 50 minutes. The effects of this shortened week have been mixed. 

According to recent studies, most parents and students like the four-day week. Students say they get more sleep, and parents say their kids spend the extra time working, helping around the house, doing hobbies, and hanging out with their families. Schools say they save money because some school employees are paid by the hour. And many teachers say they spend their day off preparing lessons—and they appreciate the additional time.

But the studies suggest that students may learn less when they go to school for only four days a week. During a school year, students are expected to make a certain amount of progress—in reading, math, and other areas. The studies show that students who go to school for four days a week progress more slowly than students who are in school for five days.

Work Rules

Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (LC-DIG-nclc-01581)

Before there were laws limiting child labor, many children in the U.S. worked long hours in dangerous jobs.

Many of the benefits that workers have, like shorter hours and health insurance, exist because governments made laws requiring them. There are also laws limiting how much children can work. What do you think it was like to be a worker before these laws existed? 

You can learn more at Britannica School!






: an activity that you do regularly for enjoyment rather than as a job

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All of the words describe things to do when you’re not in school. See if you can put the words in the right spots.


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