The 7 day work week

A while back I was poking at things that I take for granted. That is a failure area for me. All kinds of things are unusual if you turn them on their head. One area was why do we work 5 days a week? There are all kinds of answers to that question and, as part of a societal convention, it might be challenging to try to implement an alternative.

Holding a number of things as constants just to reshape things, let’s assume that 40 hours a week of work are necessary. Why not more or fewer days to accomplish that 40 hours in? The shortest possible work week (duration wise) would be to go for 40 hours straight. One form of longest week (duration wise) would be to work all 7 days but work roughly 5.5 hours per day.

There are pro’s and con’s for everyone involved for each approach though some approaches seem like they will be suboptimal (Like working 1 hour every 4). On a loose tangent, there was an article recently about how a work 10 days, take 3 days off would sort out all the weird calendar issues of some months being longer and shorter etc.

Not too long after I started thinking about it, I had the opportunity to see if I could migrate to a seven day schedule. Work in various forms was flexible enough to allow for doing a set chunk of work each day, every day, and then have a larger portion of the day available. I thought the 7 day thing would tend to even out my days. If chores/errands that I would normally do on the weekend were being accomplished during some of the extra hours available each day that seemed like a win. If things like exercise weren’t before day/end of day and sort of tightly packed in, maybe it would be less stressful and more fun. It wouldn’t have to be as time constrained. ‘Weekend’ type activities technically can happen on any day.

It turns out that the 5 day a week thing was more of a habit than I thought. Weekends came and I wanted to keep my weekends. I had real trouble breaking out of that mindset. In terms of loss aversion, it seemed much more like I was losing my weekends rather than gaining extra time spread through out the week. It had a lot less to do with being boxed in by everything else being on that schedule which going in I had assumed would be the problem. I wonder if this is specific to me or whether most folks would struggle with this type of change, particularly if you don’t have a work structure that forces you in to an alternate week to act as an anchor.

I’m thinking this is largely a habit thing that we start out with pretty young. It is broken during summer months through schooling but then the most common pattern in work seems to be the 5 day a week thing (with all the normal caveats and exceptions.) 5 days isn’t a historical necessity as it hasn’t been around that long. I’m curious as to how folks who make a change like this do it successfully and if folks may have experimented with multiple options and found an optimal result.


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