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Forget improved productivity. A four-day workweek will make us better humans.

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“We mean to make things over, / We are tired of toil for naught, / With but bare enough to live upon / And ne’er an hour for thought.”

Workers sang that song in the 1880s, protesting for an eight-hour workday at a time when the average was more like 12. They achieved that goal. But more than 100 years later, we’re still singing the same song.

Today, it’s the four-day workweek that’s gone from fringe idea to pragmatic policy consideration. Japan is recommending it in its economic policy guidelines. Iceland instituted a trial program that went swimmingly. And Spain is working on its own plan.

The push for a shorter workweek was already gaining traction before the pandemic. But covid-19’s upending of office life has made it seem more plausible than ever — perhaps even necessary. Companies have realized that their hastily adopted flexible work policies can help attract and retain employees, and workers have proved they can adjust to radical shifts in their working lives.

Yet we keep thinking about work in a disappointingly narrow way.

Even as companies, activists and individual workers champion the idea of a shorter workweek, they’re framing it in old........

© Washington Post

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