There are many reasons why we should be switching to a three-day weekend every weekend
Maybe if you look far down memory lane, straight through the tendrils of nostalgia and past the mists of amnesia, you’ll remember the last time we were looking at a bank holiday weekend after a spell of weather so perfect it can only be described as heaven-sent? For the average Irishman, Irishwoman, and Irish person of non-binary gender, the next three days of leisure are assured, made by the ritual sacrifice of 60,000 Leaving Cert students. Wouldn’t it be great if every weekend were like this? Well, yes, actually, it seems it would.
The concept of a four-day working week is gaining traction around the world, with many companies in the US, long perceived as the capitalist state afraid of taking time off, are making scope for employees to alter their schedules to accommodate a longer stretch of time to themselves. When the nonprofit Families & Work Institute surveyed more than 1,000 employees offered the chance of a three-day weekend, the organisation found that 43% took it.
And science backs up the prospect, for a number of reasons...
Health: After decades of inquiry, in studies repeated the world over, we know conclusively that the sedentary lifetime spent chained to an office desk is not good for the heart. In 2015, the world-renowned medical journal The Lancet published a literature review of numerous health research papers, claiming an undeniable link exists between heart disease and overwork in more than 600,000 employees across the western world.
Those working 55 hours per week show a 13% increase in cases of heart disease than those who put in a 40-hour week, the study showed. Worse still, the figure rose to 33% when it came to risk of suffering a stroke.
It also isn’t tied solely to white-collar desk jockeys, either; the paper showed manual workers have a 30% chance of developing Type-2 Diabetes compared to peers in similar employment who work fewer than 40 hours per week.
Wealth: Though it might seem somewhat counterintuitive, reducing the hours of work can lead to increased productivity. As Science of Us points out, this was first observed during the industrial revolution, when factory owners were forced to reduce their employees working days down to 10 and ultimately eight-hour days. Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Sarah Green Carmichael reveals that “management was surprised to discover that output actually increased – and that expensive mistakes and accidents decreased.”
In 209, two Harvard researchers decided to see if this still held water in the 21st century, using a Boston consultancy firm as guinea pigs. For five months, a group of employees were subjected to a four-day week, required to completely switch off for one mid-week day, not even allowed to read emails. Reporting back, the company’s clients said they had observed an improvement in the services provided by those who had taken a third day off compared to the ones powering miserably through a typical 50-hour week.
Happiness: While it’s perhaps an overlooked personal attribute, but switching to a three-day weekend would lift the mood of the entire nation, and that is, without a doubt, an admirable thing. Being overworked in the office means you’re far more likely to suffer from exhaustion or overtiredness, and it turns out that tired people are not the best communicators.
In short, crabby people are more likely to misinterpret other people’s emotions, even misreading obvious cues for clear emotions like “happiness” and “anger,” while, at the same time, being more likely to pick a fight with the people around them.
Rest: Lack of sleep is often called the new smoking in terms of how it affects our health, and it should come as no surprise that people who work fewer than 40 hours a week get more sleep. But they also get better sleep, finding it easier to drift off and wake up feeling more refreshed than their peers.
In a 2009 paper in the journal Sleep, the researchers suggested that it’s probably down to the fact that long hours of stress really doesn’t leave much time to unwind. “Relaxation has been recognised as an important prerequisite in the prevention of sleep-onset insomnia,” the researchers write. “As long working hours have been found to be associated with increased need of recovery after work, these employees would actually need more time to recover than workers with workdays of normal length.”
In short, every weekend should be a long weekend.