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The Student News Site of University of Kentucky

Kentucky Kernel

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4-day work weeks are the future of the professional landscape

Illustration by Akhila Nadimpalli

Working full-time and being a student can sometimes feel like you don’t have time for yourself.

I get home from work at 10:30 p.m., and when I finally fall asleep my alarm is already going off for me to go to my first class.

The weekend flies by even faster. A time that I should be able to use as a recharge is gone in the blink of an eye.

The flexibility we experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic also changed how we view our workload. Work-from-home options allowed workers to find more balance in their work and personal lives.

A lot of professionals and students feel the same on this matter, which has resulted in a push for organizations to consider four-day work weeks.

Belgium was the first country to trial the four-day work week, starting back in 2022.

Employees in Belgium have the choice to opt-in for the change in schedule, or they can keep the five-day work week. However, those who switch to the four-day work week still have to work the same number of hours per week.

In a press conference following the change, the Belgian prime minister stated, “With this agreement, we set a beacon for an economy that is more innovative, sustainable and digital. The aim is to be able to make people and businesses stronger.”

The UK soon followed suit and committed to a 6-month trial of the new work week from June to December 2022. This was the biggest trial of the change, involving 61 companies and almost 3,000 workers.

A report of the results of this trial was released in February of this year.

The report found that 56 companies planned to continue with the 4-day work week policy.

There was also an increase in the quality of employee well-being, with reduced levels of anxiety, burnout and sleep-related issues. 52% of employees reported an increased balance between their work and home life, and 62% reported an easier balance between work and social life.

There were also business benefits resulting from the trial. There was a 57% drop in the number of employees leaving the participating companies, and an average revenue increase of 35% was found.

This UK trial shows just how beneficial the four-day work week could be to both individuals and organizations.

However, would these benefits translate to the busy schedule of higher education?

Some students are lucky enough to create a schedule that allows them to have every Friday off, but not everyone gets this luxury.

If every class was modeled around the four-day work week, all students could get the benefit of an extended weekend. Students and faculty could see an improvement in mental and physical health.

D’Youville University in New York was one of the first schools to try the new model back in 2022. Faculty at the school have noticed benefits for themselves as well as for students.

The institute’s vice president of student affairs Benjamin Grant spoke with The Buffalo News a year after the policy change, stating, “This is a great case study for every institution, and I do hope that folks adopt it. The workplace is only going to expect more of styles like this. We’re going to need to meet employees where they are.”

Of course, the success of a changed work week within a university would depend on the size of the school. The number of classrooms could prove to be a challenge, as foot traffic on campus would be condensed into four days.

I think companies and universities should at least give the new four-day model a chance.

If the change isn’t for them, institutions can simply revert back to the old five-day work week.

Nevertheless, the positive impact the change could have makes it worth considering.

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