Should the 5 day working week be consigned to history?


The origins of the 5 day working week trace back to the 1920’s when Henry Ford established the 5-day, 40 hour working week for his Model-T Ford workers (Mikael Cho,

Henry Ford instituted the change from a 6 day, 48 hour working week with the desired outcome to be one where, in his words,

“Leisure is an indispensable ingredient in a growing consumer market because working people need to have enough free time to find uses for consumer products”.

Almost hundred years on we are still tied down to the 5 day working week.

Is this appropriate for a world where population growth will far outstrip the number of job opportunities?

The current world population is 7.413 billion people (Worldometers, 4 April 2016) and growing by the second.

  • Will there be enough full-time work for those ready for the job market? 
  • Will there be exploitation of those who are unable to find full-time work through the explosive increase in the marginalisation and casualisation of labour, with little hope of them ever re-engaging in the full-time workforce?
  • Will there also be exploitation of those who are in full-time work with the result that the latter work far more than the 38 hour week with little breathing space to “smell the roses”?

“Japan is witnessing a record number of compensation claims related to death from overwork, or ‘karoshi’, a phenomenon associated with the long-suffering “salary man” that is increasingly afflicting young and female employees” (The Age, 4 April 2016, p.15).

Worker stress is on the rise and there does not seem to be a circuit breaker for the growing strains of working longer hours in order to hold on to jobs and meet the ever-increasing demands for increased productivity and the need to do “more with less”.

Technology has extended the working day to far beyond the traditional 9 to 5 as one is connected with work through smart phones and the like.

Leisure is often crammed into the 2 day weekend, with one of the two days being focused on home activities.

The Millenniums have got it right. Work needs to be balanced with having a good life, and doing this simultaneously.

Could there be a compelling reason to advocate for a three-day working week?

  1. With the increase in population, and the ever-widening gap between those with full-time work and those marginalised through casual work, there may be merit in reducing the working week to three days (or so) thus enabling work life balance for all and enabling at least two days or so full-time work for the marginalised.
  2. Society will be the better for enabling more people to engage in the workforce and having some guaranteed income for all on a weekly basis rather than creating an underclass of people.
  3. Governments have been grappling with unemployment and underemployment and one of the current employment definitions is “people …..who usually work one hour or more a week” ( Thus although the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for Australia in February 2016 is 5.8%, the above definition clearly indicates that the underemployment rate is far higher. Going for a three-day working week may increase the probability of those underemployed to gain at least two days work per week.  
  4. Going for a three-day working week will enable companies to retain the very best staff as the new worker wants a balanced lifestyle– one where work with purpose is balanced with social and community causes, travel and the like. Millenniums and the generations to come will demand change.
  5. With innovations in technology such as robotics, smart machines and the like rapidly eliminating the need for labour, companies will need to think of ways to rightsizing their human resources and looking for ways to retain loyalty through innovative work life offerings. The 3 day working week could be an option.
  6. Baby Boomers may be quite content to reduce their working days in the twilight of their careers, thus enabling greater opportunities for Generation X and Y to take on higher positions currently held by the Boomers. A 3 day working week may enable this transition to occur. It also reduces the resentment often caused by generational biases towards older workers.
  7. Governments are increasingly finding it difficult to fund pensions for retirees and the pensionable age is creeping up. Hence, older workers find themselves needing to continue to work longer. The three-day week will enable older workers to still continue working and being less of a burden on government funds.

Human nature and the world of materialism and self-advancement however, imposes some barriers to this transition occurring. Working full-time is craved by most, and often society frowns on those who do not have full-time work.

There are no models to transition to, and hence a three-day a week model needs to be created that is viable, enables enough revenue to sustain the desired life style and also fulfils the need for a balanced life.

Change is needed and thinking about how to enable this transition from the current five-day working week will be inevitable.

Hence, in order to set the ball rolling, I have conceived of the 3+1+1=10 model and established Business Transformation Solutions on the 3 day working week model.

It is based on 3 days a week “Earning”, 1 day a week “Learning” and 1 day a week “Giving”.

It is a work in progress and is strengthened by my feeling that the days of the five-day working week are numbered.

Time will tell.

For further information on the 3+1+1=10 model refer to the website below: