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?