The pros and cons of a four-day work week

If you’re working for a living, the idea of a four day work week sounds like a far more attractive way to earn a salary. Four days work followed by a three day break. But it’s not necessarily all it appears. Several scientific studies have shown that the average worker can only concentrate on a given task for several hours at a time. Beyond that, we tend to flat line and under perform. However, what's most concerning is the impact long hours have on our health and stress levels.

If you’re in the workforce, the idea of a four-day week may sound appealing, especially when you consider the three-day break.

But it’s not necessarily all it appears. Several scientific studies have shown that many people who work a four-day week cram as much work into fewer days, which can have an even more negative impact on our health and stress levels.

Scheduling can be more difficult, particularly if shift work is involved. Getting to the office or home for dinner may not fit a compressed schedule when you also have to wait for the school bus each morning or handle the day-care drop-offs and pick-ups.

Putting in a long day will drain stamina and make after-work activities more difficult. Many people look forward to week night sport such as touch football, futsal, gym or yoga classes. By putting in a 10-hour day, they’re too tired to compete or participate.

In a report for the ABC, Dr Judy Rose from Griffith University’s School of Education and Professional Studies, compared groups of women with different working arrangements.

She was surprised to find that women working compressed four-day weeks or “reduced full-time hours” were far worse off than those doing full-time or part-time hours.

“They’re actually more stressed and more time-pressured than women working fulltime, because though they’re working fewer days on paper they’re juggling the household, the housework, and still working a fulltime load,” Dr Rose said.

Dr Rose said the women reported feeling more stressed, anxious and depressed, and that the situation was taking a toll on them physically — they were often taking work home and thus working even longer days.

A study released by Ohio State University found that women who work more than 12 hours a day are three times more likely to suffer heart disease, cancer, arthritis or diabetes compared to women working a regular work week. They are also twice as likely to have chronic lung disease or asthma.

So if you’re considering changing your work hours to a four-day week, first consider the domino effect it has on the rest of your life. It may be better to restructure other activities around a standard week with less stress and time pressures.