Jun 16, 2020 - Economy

Coronavirus could upend traditional workweeks

An illustration of workplace choas

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

One of the pandemic's longer-term impacts on how we work could be the end of the five-day, 9-to-5 workweek.

What's happening: For many companies, these past few months have been a period of rapid experimentation — and some are finding that shorter workdays and four-day weeks can work quite well.

1. Shorter days: The gap between when the school day typically ends — 3pm — and when the workday ends — 5 pm — "is grossly unfair to working parents," Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at UPenn's Wharton School, writes in the Economist.

  • "If more of us end up working remotely after the pandemic, there is one change that could make work better: ending the misalignment between the school day and the work day," he writes.
  • Parents juggling work and child care while telecommuting are already bearing burdens their colleagues are not, and shortening the workday to 3pm would take away a great deal of stress.
  • Grant notes: "Take it from someone who studies work for a living: we can be every bit as creative and productive in six focused hours a day as in twice as many distracted hours."

2. Shorter weeks: Firms have been experimenting with four-day workweeks during the coronavirus crisis.

  • Some are doing it so they can reduce pay and cut costs. And others are doing it to ensure their employees don't get too stressed or burned out during these times.
  • But the four-day workweek could outlast the pandemic. About one-third of U.S. employers already offer shorter weeks, NBC reports, and more could follow suit.
Go deeper