Could Instituting a Four-Day Workweek Be a Feminist Act?
Before the pandemic, a handful of companies were experimenting with the four-day workweek. But now the practice is going mainstream, with companies like crowd-sourcing platform Kickstarter and online clothing marketplace ThredUp compressing their working weeks.
Some countries are giving it a go. During the pandemic, the government of Japan encouraged employers to adopt a four-day schedule, and in Iceland, it’s the norm, where 86% of workers now work or have the option to work a four-day week. Even city employees in Morgantown, WV, are working a shorter week.
Reception has been largely favorable. Workers report improved work-life balance, less stress and burnout, and higher productivity. But evidence has pointed to one other surprising outcome: The four-day workweek may also improve gender parity.
In 2022, 33 companies across six countries, including the US and Canada, participated in a six-month trial of the four-day work week. According to a survey by 4 Day Week Global, the nonprofit organization that facilitated the trial, workers reported experiencing less burnout, higher life and job satisfaction, improved work-life balance, and better mental and emotional well-being. Men with a four-day week reported spending 22% more time on childcare and 23% more time on housework, while women’s time on these responsibilities decreased. It raises the question: If the four-day work week can help women balance their professional and personal lives, could instituting a four-day week be a feminist act?