We Need a Three Day Work Week

Nothing grinds my gears more at this present moment than the phrase “when all of this is over” or “when we go back to normal”. Am I PMS-ing? Yes, I am. But even if I was not, “this” is never going to be over. The effects of it will last as long as I live. And if we’re lucky, we’ll never “go back to normal” because normal means shitty prioritizing of profit over everything else. “Normal” gave me PTSD, “normal” made me feel bad for not affording food because I bought cat litter and a book, “normal” should never have been normalized in the first place. Fuck normalcy.

If and when epidemiologists and public health officials (and not a crazed fascist president) determine it’s safe for folks to gather again, and folks who used to clean and work in offices begin thinking about going back to those offices that exist outside of our homes, we really need to make sure we don’t go back to five full days.

Be honest, if you’re working from home right now, how many of you are really putting in five, 8-hour days? Even my mother, the director of a career center is cooking breakfast sandwiches (with glee, I might add) at 10 in the morning. We’re working less, but somehow, we’re not getting less done! I wonder why????

IT’S BECAUSE THE FIVE-DAY WORK WEEK IS A PIECE OF SHIT. I’m sorry, I didn’t need to yell, but y’all I cannot stand the five day work week! I never want to work more than 30 hours a week, and want to be able to choose three days maximum when I go into an office, service, or retail job. We are not made for giving all of ourselves to our work, and yet that’s what the five day week trains us to believe! There is research that people over 40 shouldn’t work more than 25 hours a week, and I say we just apply that to everyone. I’m sure you’ve seen the research suggesting that four-day work weeks produce more productivity, and that’s great too, but to be honest, it’s still too much! More than half our week should not belong to work and work thoughts!

I want us to be free, far freer than we are. And the first step in that freedom? Divest from the five-day work week. If I haven’t convinced you yet, here’s 22 reasons why.


1. Work just sucks, tbh

2. 40 hours is too many hours. It’s just too many!

3. Less time in work means more time for naps

4. Your “weekends” won’t turn into “do all the chores you didn’t have time to do”

5. Less days commuting means an overall healthier environment

6. Listen, no one is truly working a full 40 hours a week, so it’s time to stop pretending

7. We’ll sleep better at night

8. Water cooler chat is literally hell

9. (in an ideal world) Maybe it’ll force people to actually pay us what we’re worth

10. It’ll mean less work for the laborers who are often ignored (janitors, bus drivers, etc)

11. Our pets will be very sad if we go back to work every day

12. Imagine getting a four day weekend every week

13. We’ll be so much happier!

14. Think of all the books you can read in your spare time!

15. Think of the passion projects you’ll develop!

16. A more parent friendly schedule

17. We’ll get to eat better, more enjoyable food

18. A more accessible schedule to those who working in an office may not work for

19. If we spend on average, 40 hours/week at work, 10 hours commuting, 15 hours getting ready/unwinding, and 40 hours a night sleeping, 105 of our 168 hours of the week are already taken up.

20. Office buildings are too cold

21. DID I MENTION FORTY HOURS IS TOO MANY HOURS?!

22. When we have free time, we are more likely to use our imaginations. When we use our imaginations, we can begin to build new worlds.


What would you do with a three-day work week? How would your life change? What new hobbies, passions, or rest could you cultivate?


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Ari

Ari is a 20-something artist and educator. They are a mom to two cats, they love domesticity, ritual, and porch time. They have studied, loved, and learned in CT, Greensboro, NC, and ATX.

Ari has written 326 articles for us.

55 Comments

  1. Seriously though, I’ve been put down to three days a week (my company is trying to cut costs) and my health is so. Much. Better. My migraines, backache and stress levels are way down, and I don’t feel tired all day, plus the 4-day weekend means I spend more days being ‘me’ rather than ‘work-me’ (is she real anyway?).

    It sucks that I’m one of the lucky ones, because I I know that a short working weeks is impossible for so many people who are on low wages/have dependents and other responsibilities. I honestly think the world would be so much happier and healthier if we could spend more time away from our jobs than at them. Tldr: ALL HAIL THE THREE DAY WEEK.

  2. A lot of people like to argue against a shorter work week with “But people will get paid less!” and that’s like. Not necessarily true. If we stick to an hourly system, then they probably would, but flipping the way we think about salaries from “Here, now I can pay you the same amount to work more hours” to “Here, now I can pay you the same amount to do the same amount of work, just in fewer consecutive hours” would keep people’s income and “””productivity””” the same with the added bonus of less commuting and less dead-eyed secret Twitter scrolling.

      • i want to abandon hourly wages and just like….pay people to LIVE!!!! the WORST thing about this pandemic is how cushy office job homies are just FINE and hourly workers are like “uhhhhh ok guess i NEED TO GO IN bc no one will pay me to stay safe hahaha this is FINE!!!” it’s NOT FINE. just pay people what they’re worth

        • Hi Lucy! I too am an hourly service worker, and I don’t have good answers to all of your questions. For workers who are employed by a larger body, like bus drivers, grocery clerks, or restaurant workers, shift staggering could get the same amount of work done by fewer people in less time, and the larger body could continue to pay everyone the same amount. Independent workers and people who are self-employed, such as certain caregivers, would likely require different solutions.

        • I think we just raise the wage Lucy! What if essential workers were paid $50+ an hour because their work is WORTH $50+ an hour??? So that no one has to work more hours. This whole thing is an experiment of imagining new, better worlds, that don’t exist within the confines of our current society where productivity/hours worked=determining whether or not you can live. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to imagine a world where a person can work 20 hours a week and be paid a living wage.

          I also say this as a person who has only worked minimum wage jobs my entire life and has never made more than $20K a year. Like, it doesn’t have to be like this. It IS this way because we value overworking people over valuing their labor.

          I’m sorry if this post upset you; I think we’re on the same side. I want work not to be the center of our lives. I want us to have space to live and dream.

          • We are definitely on the same side! I want living wages and time for people to live their lives! I also want these conversations to include acknowledgements that many of us have jobs that are about time physically present at one’s workplace to be available to do things, and not necessarily about productivity, and that being more productive in less time doesn’t solve that issue. And worker productivity has increased SO MUCH over the last 40 years while wages have stagnated!

        • As a fellow blue collar I suggest:
          1) Start a union – this is key
          2) Demand more co-workers and fewer individual work hours with maintained pay. If your union is strong enough they will find a way to afford it even if they tell you they can’t at first. Uh oh, the bosses might have to take a pay cut.

          Optional: Communism – now you’re in control! Because seriously the constant battle of union vs corp is exhausting and if you want to achieve pie in the sky goals like 24 hour work weeks (and I do!) we are gonna need some major systemic changes. In the mean time see #1&2.

          • I thought through basically this whole thread in my head before I got to it. “But I do work every single second I’m at my job because a large portion of my job is just standing in the store waiting for people to come in. I can’t condense all the customers in 5 days into 3 days (if only I could). So then my hours would be drastically cut!

            So then they’d have to pay me more…

            But [CEO] is never going to pay me more, how will she afford all of her vampire facials and whatever other shit wealthy women in LA spend their money on??

            ………I guess we gotta redistribute the wealth to the workers, it’s the only solution

    • With a three day work week, I would go broke and things at my workplace would fall apart, as I’m needed to accomplish tasks six days a week. If you want to work part time, go for it! Many jobs offer part time as the norm (try almost any retail position).

      • but what if, hear me out, 3 days a week was full time, and we found a way that meant that no one was needed 6 days a week–unless they wanted to work 6 days a week?

        I really do hear you, and I am not advocating for a “if things stay exactly as they are let’s just cut everyone’s hours” I’m saying “let’s rehaul the entire system so that work is not the center of everyone’s life, and no one–employees most importantly–is going broke for working less”

        I can see that I did not succeed at making this an exciting thought experiment and instead is being read by some as “go broke” but I promise that’s not what I’m saying. I want a world where no one is broke. Where jobs don’t fall apart if you’re not there.

        • i understood what you meant – 24 is the new 40. i can see how some folks might feel like even if they made the same income they have now but worked 3/5 less, they’d still have financial stress.

          it is an engaging discussion, the kind we need on a broad scale because the inequality we face didn’t happen by accident.

  3. Things I do not miss about being unemployed for the first months of the pandemic:
    – The constant, crushing fear of my meager savings finally running out

    Things I do miss about being unemployed:
    – Sleeping in
    – Spending the whole day baking
    – Reading
    – Going on walks whenever I wanted and getting to know the birds, flowers, and trees of my neighborhood intimately
    – My entire body NOT being in pain from sitting in a desk chair all day
    – Fucking off to the woods for an entire afternoon
    – Being able to throw all my energy into writing my book for the first time ever
    – Devoting my time to my loved ones instead of a job
    – Figuring out what work and leisure activities actually bring me joy and fulfillment
    – Figuring out how to sit with my feelings and the sky and the world without pushing it all aside to Be More Productive (big How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell vibes)
    – Feeling like my life belongs to me and no one else

  4. THANK

    YOU

    YES!!!!

    Needless overworking of the masses is an intentional tool of capitalism/patriarchy/white supremacy to keep us tired, overwhelmed and unable to connect and unite. It is no coincidence that a global push for revolutionary change is happening in the middle of this pandemic!

  5. Hear hear! I’ve been arguing (to friends I do not yet have the social capital at work to argue to any powers that be) for a four day work week for years now and I love the idea of a three day work week even more. It’s a better reflection of my priorities and how I want the world to value all of us!

    And fuck hourly wages. And let’s get a universal basic income in place. I WANT people to feel encouraged to be “lazy”! I really think there would be so much more wonder and creativity and kindness in the world if we weren’t all pouring our energy into making money. And even though my office in a 10 min walk from where I currently live, now that I’ve gotten the flow of working from home I don’t want to give it up – unless I trade it for far less time in the office.

    I’ve said in the past that I’d trade a raise for a three day weekend and I stand by that. I don’t know how to make this future a reality but I want it – need it.

  6. I had a 4 day week due to Covid related short-time working in April with the huge (!) privilege of getting almost the same salary as usual and it was heaven. I’m a managing news editor and was more productive, creative and focused during my working days even though the work load was immense.

  7. As someone who works in healthcare and does only work 3 days a week, I can say it is glorious to have 4 days off every week. I have time to enjoy my days off. I spend a full day hiking once a week, and then I have 3 other whole days I can use to cook good food, read a book, socialize (in socially distant ways), and do chores. While being on the frontlines of this pandemic is definitely taking a mental toll I am extremely greatful for the privilege to work so few days a week. I believe everyone should have the right to do the same.

  8. I’d like to add “Working Hours Flexibility” to the dream list. As someone who is naturally nocturnal, the instance on the 0900-1700 work schedule is most distressing to me. Not that it matters much, though, as I can’t even get interviews much less a job.

      • Yes, that too! I would love to flip my schedule to something that works naturally for me. I’ve finally admitted that I’m not a morning person, and that I need a full nights sleep, but my focus and creativity peaks in the evening. I would love to have more of those peak hours for myself. And I’d be more productive at work if the first few hours weren’t spent reconciling myself to being awake

  9. Yes to all of this! 40 hour work weeks are unreasonable for everybody, especially in an age of such high-tech automation potential. 40+ hours as “full-time” work, much like other capitalistic demands on labor, is also deeply rooted in ableism. Longer periods of work in a day/week are often impossible for disabled people like me (I’m thankfully self-employed now, with a lot more schedule flexibility), so I’m eager to see this harmful norm change. It’s yet another case where an accommodation would benefit everyone!

  10. Yes to all of this!! Give us a 3 day workweek with the same pay as for 40 hours!!!
    It honestly does not make sense to work so many hours when there are so many people unemployed and underemployed

  11. On point. How many people are “really” working a full 8 hours a day, five days a week? If the work can be done on time and correctly in less time, why not shorten the work week week? I’m also done with hourly pay. When the pay structure is such that you don’t get full time pay unless you’re at work a minimum of 8 hours I think it would be found a lot of people are being paid to hang out at a place for a set amount of time. This does the opposite of encouraging productivity, it just makes people draw out tasks that could be completed a lot sooner to fill the day.

  12. I can’t say I’d be more productive with a shorter week since I have the kind of job where even at the end of the day I’m going “3 minutes left? Yes, I can still get a bunch of things done!” but happier and healthier? Definitely.

    Relatedly, whilst dreaming of new ways of living, not spending over 2 hours a day in transit would also be lovely health and happiness-wise. And it’s usually those who work the hardest and earn the least who spend the longest time commuting, so it feels like an interrelated concern. Shout out to those trying to manage all that on minimum wage (or worse in places with no minimum wage).

  13. My current work contract is for 48 hours a week with basically 24/7 availability but we don’t really do that. It get’s trying to work 40 hours, 5 days a week, which means that I only have weekends to get things done (before the pandemic).
    This schema was not working for me or my relationship. My gf was unemployed for a long time and well, she wanted to do stuff during the weekends since we were both free, but I just wanted to stay home and do nothing. She was like Let’s go out! let’s play fútbol at 8 am on Sundays and I was like.. dude I can only sleep in two days a week, please let me sleep!
    I’ve found better work/life balance, I actually slept better when the pandemic started.
    So yeah I’m IN for a 4 day weekend!

  14. I really have always been against the “40” hour work week and for socialized pay scales to even the playing fields. Though since millions of people have lost there jobs, this article seems out of touch – many whom can’t even get unemployment. Those people, like myself are working 12 hour day everyday trying to just find work, averaging maybe a few dollars and hour. And now that evictions can happen in many cities its even worse. If one is privileged enough to have a job please don’t brag about “not really working full time” because others are literally in pain and hurting and possibly dying. For many, for example, eviction = death.

  15. Very much agree with everything here, and wow isn’t this a lot of comments in a short time, it’s almost as if this has a massive impact on absolutely everybody’s quality of life…

    If our cultural/societal perception of what constituted “full time” work changed so that a three-day work week was the norm, that would be brilliant. But even within the world as it exists now, I’m also fascinated by the extent to which this is a topic where cultural differences come into play between countries. Part-time and flexible work arrangements (with decent pay!) seem to be extremely rare eg in North America, compared to in Australia – from the impression I have, at least. I’ve heard things about American women being trapped having to choose between either career or parenting, to an extent that seems more extreme and more ubiquitous than for women in Australia, which sounds like it relates to these sorts of ingrained expectations for full-time work weeks as being ideal, or the only way of doing things. It’s fairly normal here (in Aus) for parents to get a three-day work week while their kids are at school, and then increase their hours later. I’ve had a lot of conversations about this sort of thing recently with people I know IRL, and we have an impression that in America there’s a bigger problem with needing either nannies or a full-time stay-at-home mum, because it’s harder to arrange for both parents to work part-time.

    The fact that cultural differences already play into it, of course, only further proves that this isn’t how things need to be, as well…

    • Full time here in the Netherlands is often 38 hours. Some places are considering going down to 36.

      When I still worked, I had a 32 hour contract, both of my brothers and their partners work 4 days a week. I’ve never wanted to work 5 days.

  16. I have more control over my hours than most people. When I can swing a 4.5 day work week, I have no desire to buy things. When I start working more than that, I wanna buy snacks, then clothes, and books, and random shit. Just one of the many ways capitalism feeds itself – it forces us into stress and not having enough time to take care of ourselves, so we buy more shit.

  17. I have the extreme privilege of having this magical 4 day weekend/3 day work week, and oh wow has it changed my life! As a chronically ill disabled person, I looked for a job that would be part time but still give me health insurance, and I found one! I was originally not making enough for living in the Bay (30k) and had to still babysit on the side to get by, but I recently got promoted and even though I turned down the option of working more hours, I was still given the raise I deserved! I work for a company that represents all the things I value and sees me as a whole person, and it gives me so much hope that we can move towards more realistic expectations of people in terms of how much we can give to work. At our last company-wide meeting, my boss talked about wanting to move to a 4-day-work week for everyone and it felt so good to know that this is the direction we could be headed in!

  18. Hell to the fucking yes!!! Thank you for this content.

    I can’t believe I used to work 40+ hours every week. I don’t want to go back to it. It’s bullshit and it’s bad for us.

    Ecological benefits of a reduced workweek could be tremendous, not only through reduced commuting, but reduced production and consumption on the whole
    (https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20190802-how-shorter-workweeks-could-save-earth).

    There’s also the potential to contain the pandemic with a drastically reduced workweek (https://medium.com/@urialonw/containing-sars-cov-2-with-a-two-day-workweek-fbdea4030d30).

  19. The 40 hour work week was created for straight white men who have wives to clean the house, do the laundry, grocery shop, cook every meal, and just generally do ALL THE CHORES. All of that stuff is ALSO a 40 hour a week job (at least!). So if you are me (and more millennials than any prior generation) and you are single and live alone, you have two full time jobs. But most people can’t do 2 full time jobs and if you have any kind of disability, forget it, there’s no way. But you have to prioritize the paying job if you would like to continue to live in the apartment that generates so much work. So then the unpaid one falls by the wayside. Because you don’t have anywhere near enough time to clean or cook or fix the shower knob or the majority of your chores! And then our parents tell us we are failing (even if it’s just their voice in our head) and so we feel like failures. Then we go to therapy….if we can fit it into our work hours and also our budget which is very difficult considering how underpaid we are.

    Not to mention we have almost no time for hobbies or leisure or anything ACTUALLY worthwhile!

    Anyway, thanks for writing this, I think about this a lot!

    • I came here to say this! The 40-hour workweek is rooted in a straight patriarchal society. Studies have shown that in most male-female relationships, where both work the same amount of hours, housework is still done more by the women. Even if the men think they do about half of it.

      • Yep came here to say this too! The 40 hour week was imagined up and put in place with the expectation you have a wife at home doing all the cooking, housekeeping, household management, etc. Based in misogyny and utterly unrealistic when not existing in a system where you are just relying on someone’s unpaid labor. As an American it is always shocking to realize and remember other nations often function very differently in this regard and that our system is so unnecessary and yet deeply ingrained and seemingly immovable

  20. I started a new job the day before lockdown started in my country and it has been so eye opening to work from home. It made me realise how much time is wasted in the office, trying to look busy, its like being in school. Now I can set my own schedule (within reason) and i get all my work done in about 5 hrs. I miss the social side of the office, seeing people, going for work drinks but I am enjoying this moment for now :)

  21. I can’t agree with you more! There was an experiment in Japan that showed that working 4 days a week while getting paid for 5 days actually increases employees’ productivity a lot.

  22. I can’t agree with you more! There was an experiment in Japan that showed that working 4 days a week while getting paid for 5 days actually increases employees’ productivity a lot.

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