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The Four-Day Week: Necessity or Luxury?

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The Four-Day Week: Necessity or Luxury?

World Economic Forum,

5 min read
3 take-aways
Audio & text

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Organizations across the world are heeding the call to give workers more control over when and how much they work.

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Organizations across the world are rethinking the structure of work. In this discussion from the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, host Adam Grant gathers a diverse group of experts to reflect on historical and current experiments in shortening the workweek – including efforts led by panel members themselves. While their conversation highlights some of the challenges and prerequisites to implementing a four-day week, the contributors unanimously endorse a shift toward fewer, more flexible working hours.


The workweek, as we know it now, is a human invention.

Work rhythms have varied over the course of history – there is nothing sacred or inevitable about the five-day, 40-hour workweek. Contemporaries thought Henry Ford and W.K. Kellogg daring for reducing workers’ schedules from six days to five, and cutting factory shifts from eight hours to six, respectively. Yet these experiments paid off by improving employee well-being, morale, loyalty and overall productivity. Given further increases in productivity over the past 100 years, it may be time to reinvent the workweek once again.

Alternatives to the strict 9-to-5 are not only feasible, but necessary.

Proponents of a shorter workweek offer a variety of arguments in its favor. Governments, employers and workers alike have an interest in avoiding the detrimental effects of overwork on people’s health, which could easily outweigh any advantages that arise from clocking longer hours. A shorter week ...

About the Speakers

Adam Grant is the Saul P. Steinberg Professor of Management and Psychology at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. The panel comprises author and social entrepreneur Hilary Cottam, and Jonas Prising, chairman and CEO of ManpowerGroup. Ohood Bint Khalfan Al Roumi is the Emirati Minister of State for Government Development and the Future, while Anne-Marie Slaughter is CEO of the New America think tank.

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