The four-day work week model recently emerged after the Spanish government approved a $50 million pilot project that allows 200 companies to test the four-day, 32-hour work week.
Clara Santacruz, the manager of the office of experiential and community-based learning at St. Thomas University, said working students would benefit as they would have more time for hobbies and socializing.
“This would allow them to have more time to visit stores, explore different organizations or volunteer. I think it’s really good for community involvement,” said Santacruz.
She said she meets many working students who don’t have time to explore Fredericton.
Santacruz said she encourages students to experience new things and apply learning outside of the classroom, which she said is hard to do when they’re always working. Employees and employers would benefit from the four-day work week.
“[Employers] could potentially see an increase in morale. I don’t think there would be much of a productivity loss if that’s what they’re concerned with,” said Santacruz.
Hilary Foster, a fourth-year STU student, works a four-day week tutoring Monday through Thursday. Foster said having an extra day in the week helps her de-stress before the weekend.
“I always feel more pressure to get [schoolwork] done before I start work. I don’t have that on Friday because I know I have the day ahead of me for schoolwork,” said Foster.
She spent the past two summers working in an office, where she noticed staff meetings and parties are always on Fridays.
“I find Fridays in office culture are very unproductive. I would say most people are mentally checked out by one in the afternoon,” said Foster.
She said a four-day work week would increase productivity in an office because workers would be motivated to complete their tasks in order to enjoy the long weekend.
Philip Leonard, an economics professor at the University of New Brunswick, said most companies won’t give something for nothing. This could mean a decrease in salary or benefits.
“For example, if you [have to] provide medical benefits to every single worker who works for you, as a company, you’re not going to want to have them working really short work weeks and having to hire way more workers,” said Leonard.
He said the success of the new model will depend on the company or firm and the structure of work. A company like Walmart, which is open seven days a week, may have difficulty staggering and arranging four-day work schedules, he said.
“One possibility is that there might be more jobs generally,” said Leonard. “If there was a large shift and most people were going to four-day work weeks, in theory, there might be more jobs available, but again that comes back to what the firms are doing.”
Leonard said there are positive health benefits, where reduced hours and three-day weekends mean employees have more time to exercise and be with their families.
“If workers are fresher and more relaxed because they’re only working 32 hours as opposed to 40, there could be that increased productivity, but you don’t know with certainty.”