In today’s Atlantic I have an essay arguing for reopening businesses on a 4-day week.
The argument has two parts. First, offices have proved to be a significant vector for COVID-19, and more generally, today’s open office plan and decor are as beloved by the virus as they are by interior designers. Like the overconfident scientists in a horror movie, we tried to create spaces that would help ideas incubate and spread, but have created spaces that are great for spreading illnesses.
Shifting to a 4-day week (or expanding operating hours and dividing your workforce into two 6-hour shifts) would let companies reopen at a lower per-person density, which would help dampen down another outbreak.
Second, the work of redesigning workdays helps companies identify inefficiencies in how they normally work, gives workers a great incentive to learn new tools and habits, and helps everyone develop a more flexible, experimental mindset– the kind that you need when you have to figure out how to redesign your office, rethink how you interact with customers, and come up with ways of working that don’t create unnecessary risks.
Of course, reopening this way won’t work for every kind of business, but as I found who researching my book on the 4-day week, while it’s easier to envision an office making this work, there are also nursing homes, automotive garages, call centers, and factories that have successfully done it.