A four day week for productivity


Kathryn McAuliffe

A student reviews her planner and deals with impending stress.

Microsoft made headlines last week after releasing statistics showing a 40% productivity increase when implementing a four day work week. Companies are moving to four day weeks in an attempt to help employees perfect the balancing act of work and life. Schools should look to businesses and implement four day weeks to increase student productivity, resulting in happier, healthier students. 

At Microsoft Japan, employees found that by knowing they had a greater reward for their work, like a long weekend, they were more motivated to work. Employees spent less time in the office–lowering electricity costs–and more time actually working. Overall, results dictated that shortened work weeks boosted worker efficiency. Similar results may be replicated in education. Moving to a four day school week has proven to help with student anxiety while resulting in higher test scores and an overall better educational experience. 

With student anxiety levels on the rise, and school as the most prominent cause, shortening the school week could improve students’ mental health. Reducing the number of school days would reduce school-related stress. Students would have longer weekends, allowing for more time for relaxation and developing personal interests. Maintaining mental health for all people, and especially students, is paramount because it promotes the holistic development of an individual, which is paramount when considering that students are at such a formative time in their lives. 

With less time to do the same amount of work, it’s easy to believe that students would be more stressed and accomplish less. Yet, by knowing that a greater reward lies at the end, productivity increased. Students spend the larger part of the school day on meaningless, ancillary tasks. That time is cut down allowing for more productivity and a larger focus on important tasks. This is creating educational benefits, demonstrated by a correlation between shorter weeks and higher test scores. One way this is done is by taking the budgetary savings from the shortened week and directing them to educational budgets for supplies, lesson plans and more. Districts are expected to save over $1 million by making this switch, a sum of money that could pay for arts programs, teachers’ salaries or other traditionally underfunded endeavors. 

A shortened workweek is attractive to educators too; it acts as a recruitment tool. School districts have seen an increase in qualified applicants for teaching positions and for positions as special educators. One Colorado school district even saw teacher turnover rate drop to nearly half of what it had been. Educators are cognizant benefits four day weeks provide. They allow for more time for professional development, planning and ensure happier, higher-quality teachers. Some districts even designate the day students don’t attend school (most often Friday) as a teacher workday, dedicated to collaboration, planning and grading. A low turnover rate creates educational continuity, allowing educators to form bonds with students, communities and educators.

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Education needs to take a risk. Moving to a four day week, while seemingly impossible, can happen. Improving students’ mental health and developing the student beyond the classroom should be a priority for educators, and this is one way they can do it. Parkway and school districts across the world should take actions that spark progress and change. Risk is, well, risky, but it’s something that may be well worth the reward.