5 reasons a 4-day week could be the future of work

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Lukas Bester, Freelance Researcher and Writer – World Economic Forum, Sustainable Development Consultant in Emerging Markets


  • Panellists, including Ohood Bint Khalfan Al Roumi, the UAE’s Minister of State for Government Development and the Future, gathered at Davos 2022 for a discussion on switching to a 4-day workweek.
  • The panel was mediated by Adam Grant, professor of psychology at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
  • Other panellists included Jonas Prising, Chairman and CEO of ManpowerGroup, Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO of New America, and Hilary Cottam of the Centre for the Fifth Social Revolution.

“Henry Ford found, a century ago, that people were more productive if they worked five days instead of six. This had an impact on morale, loyalty, and overall productivity. We have to ask though: Why are we stuck on five days? Is this, too, a human invention that deserves to be rethought?”

So asked Adam Grant, organizational psychologist, author, and Professor of Management and Psychology at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. A dynamic panel explored this question at Davos 2022 and why, perhaps, it is high time to reconsider the five-day workweek model.

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The four-day model is being tested by countries like the United Arab Emirates (UAE). “Early data on four-day weeks is really promising,” said Ohood Bint Khalfan Al Roumi, Minister of State for Government Development and the Future of the UAE. In 2021, the UAE moved its public sector workers to a four-and-a-half day week.

“Some of the early data that we gathered are really promising. 70% of employees reported that they are working more efficiently, prioritizing and managing their time better during the week. 55% reduction in absenteeism, which is wonderful. And 71% of employees reported that they’re spending more time with their families,” she said.

Minister Ohood Bint Khalfan Al Roumi of the UAE and Prof Adam Grant of The Wharton School at Davos 2022
Minister Ohood Bint Khalfan Al Roumi of the UAE and Prof Adam Grant of the Wharton School at Davos 2022. Image: World Economic Forum

In discussing the well-being of people, Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO of New America was clear on the benefits of the four-day workweek: “It would give us time to be whole human beings. We need care, connection and other good things – we aren’t just economic instruments. I believe the shift would be good for all of society.”

Hillary Cottam, Social Entrepreneur of the Centre for the Fifth Social Revolution agreed: “One of the major things that could be impacted by this is the climate agenda. There is very good research that shows that if we work less, we don’t travel so much and we make less intensive consumer choices.”

Jonas Prising, Chairman and CEO of ManpowerGroup (the third-largest staffing firm in the world) noted that a time may come when companies will have to seriously consider this option in order to retain top talent: “In labour markets that are constrained in terms of workers, workers are making the choice for us. They’re joining organizations that will provide flexibility and choice.”

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