Exclusive media partner: The New York Times


Receive regular updates about forthcoming events and other news from Intelligence Squared


You have been added to our mailing list and will now be among the first to hear about events.

Play video


Is it Time to Abandon the Five-Day Work Week?

Is the five-day work week obsolete or as valuable as ever? 

In Partnership with Slack


Just over a hundred years ago, the five-day workweek was introduced in mills to accommodate Jewish and Christian religious days of rest. The masses followed suit and the “five days on, two days off” cadence soon became ingrained in our collective imagination. A lot has changed in the world since then, to put it mildly – and never more so than in the past two years. So has the time come to try something new? Research at the University of Miami found that employee motivation and performance steadily declines from Monday to Friday as employees run out of steam. Another problem is that thanks to technology, the “9-to-5” has become a mirage. We think it exists, but it doesn’t. We are constantly checking in and refreshing our inboxes. And this extra time spent on work outside hours either goes unnoticed by employers or unregulated by employees. It’s time to abandon the five-day work week. 

That’s the argument of the future of work utopians but for professional service employees moving off the five-day week could never work in practice. Clients and colleagues demand quick responses. And while companies can adjust their business hours, institutions like schools and universities are unlikely to adjust their schedules anytime soon. That means families with school-aged children have less flexibility and will be punished for changes. Another issue is that organisations are built for efficiency, and flexible work hours may not align with effective processes and deadlines. And a more obvious concern is that changing the cadence of work and rest may unintentionally blur the lines further and make employees more stressed out than ever before. 

So who’s right and who’s wrong? Is the five-day work week obsolete or as valuable as ever? 



Bruce Daisley

Former Vice-President of Twitter for EMEA and author of The Joy of Work

Former Vice-President of Twitter for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. He is the author of books including The Joy of Work and the forthcoming title Fortitude: Unlocking the Secrets of Inner Strength.  He hosts the podcast Eat Sleep Work Repeat, in which he interviews psychologists, neuroscientists and workplace experts to understand how we can improve our jobs.

Elizabeth Uviebinené

Author of The Reset, brand strategist and columnist for the Financial Times

Author, brand strategist and columnist for the Financial Times. She is co-author of the award winning book Slay In Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible and most recently Reset: Ideas to Change How We Work and Live.

Karl Nicholson

Executive Engagement for EMEA at Slack

Karl Nicholson leads Slack’s Executive Engagement for EMEA. He is an Engineer turned technology leader, and is passionate about using technology to enable people to do their best work.Before Slack, Karl was the co-founder and CIO at Synaptek. Synaptek is a digital innovation company whose goal is to connect people, process and technology to get work done. Karl built the company’s engineering team and technology strategy to support intelligent process automation and revolutionise the ways of working. Karl’s technology experience includes; software development and core infrastructure engineering, alongside integration and automation technologies.His experience spans both the public and private sector, including brands such as; Formula 1, Virgin Trains, the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC), PGA European Tour and UK Emergency Services. Where he was an integral part of designing, deploying and supporting technology strategies.Karl was previously a reservist in the UK Armed forces and is now a volunteer with the Royal Air Force Air Cadets where he is involved with their digital team.

Nick Srnicek

Writer and academic who specialises in the future of work. His forthcoming book is After Work: The Fight for Free Time published in 2023

Writer and academic who specialises in the future of work. He is currently a lecturer in Digital Economy in the Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London. Srnicek is associated with the political theory of accelerationism and a post-scarcity economy. He is the author of Platform Capitalism and the forthcoming book After Work: The Fight for Free Time published in 2023.

Anne McElvoy

Executive Editor of The Economist and host of The Economist Asks podcast

Senior Editor at The Economist and head of Economist Radio podcasts. She is a regular presenter of arts and politics shows on Radio 3 and Radio 4, and a panellist on the BBC's Moral Maze. She also writes a weekly political column on British and European politics for the Evening Standard.