Skip to content

Tag: pandemic

Who’s afraid of the Four Day Work Week?

Here’s an enchanting idea. Being able to go to places open the same hours as I work. Being able to make appointments during weekdays. Not always trying to manage the rest of my life around the time I spend yelling at computers and bending them too my will.

If you’re a “full-time” employee, your work week is likely five days (if not more), and spans 40 hours (if not more). You might be paid by the hour, or you might be on salary, but you probably have two days “officially” off every week (although work might slide into those days) and they probably land on Saturday and Sunday.

Now imagine that your salary and benefits stayed the same, your responsibilities at work stayed the same, but everyone at your company only worked four days a week. Think about your current life, and the current make-up of your week, and what you usually have to smush into the weekend. What would you do with extra day off, every week of the year, for the rest of your working life?

Who’s Afraid of the Four Day Work Week? – by Anne Helen Petersen – Culture Study

When you have time away from work, you’re able to refresh yourself and return to work with renewed vigor and focus. I work in a white collar industry that involves computers all over the place. My job isn’t physical. I’m not moving, lifting, running, or carrying things around. Thought that can absolutely be part of a computer job. Technical Support isn’t just 1s and 0s.

My job is mental. It’s keeping systems and information flows in my head. It’s remembering how different variables work together within a greater system to perform tasks. It’s knowing where the limits exist. And a simple Yes/No answer could be the result of an hour of work researching and testing.

Time away from work to unwind my brain and let is breathe and focus on other things is vital to my performance. I dive deeply into hobbies because I need the break. I need the time to unwind and unstressed and build up reserves for another five days of 8 (or more) hour days diving into complex problems and stuffing flowcharts, settings, variables and options back into my head.

Findings from Iceland support this. I didn’t read the full report (PDF) but the same answer appears whenever experiments like this take place.

Worn down by long hours spent at work, the Icelandic workforce is often fatigued, which takes a toll on its productivity. In a vicious circle, this lower productivity ends up necessitating longer working days to ‘make up’ the lost output, lowering ‘per-hour productivity’ even further.

Sound familiar? Replace Icelandic in this sentence with United States and the same applies.

And we don’t even have any of the following (emphasis mine):

But if you don’t have time for an 82-page report, the highlights are as follows: Iceland has a strong social safety net, with low income inequality, significant parental leave, and a robust universal health care.

How many weeks have you really only worked four days? Slow Monday. Taking it easy from a rough weekend. Friday hits and you’re so exhausted you coast through the day counting the hours until the salvation of a too-short weekend arrives.

This is the principle at the heart of the four day week: working less can actually mean working better. That idea is particularly difficult for Americans, who fetishize long hours for many ideologically tangled reasons, to understand. It’s true in knowledge work, it’s true in medical fields, it’s true in construction. You’re just a better worker — a safer worker, a more creative worker, a more astute and alert worker — when you’re not exhausted.

There’s so much in this article to unpack. But it’s time to start thinking about how we work and why we work like we do. Work has expanded through technology to reach into your homes, vacations and every moment of our lives. Long commutes take more and more of our personal time out of our hands and place them into the realm of working hours. But aren’t counted as such.

As a society, we’ve repeatedly shifted our understanding of the “standard” work week. We’ve shifted — through union force, through governmental edict, through business leadership — when it’s made sense. When the work could be done in fewer hours, when employees demanded it for their own health, when societies realized the way things are doesn’t have to be the way things will be. And now is one of those times.

Anne Helen Petersen has quickly become one of my favorite writers and Who’s Afraid of the Four Day Work Week? is this week’s reason to keep loving her work.

Snapshots from solo pandemic life

Anne Helen Petersen‘s collection of stories from those riding out the pandemic solo is equal parts heart-breaking and heart-warming. I find myself quoting “a closed door is a happy door” often. As it sums up my general need for solitude and my low-risk pandemic outlook. I refer to going out into the world like walking through a zombie outbreak. Only you don’t know which people are the infected and which are harmless.

There’s honesty in solitude and honesty in the stories shared.

what it means to pandemic, solo

But I love that literally nobody sees what I do with my days. If I want to wear the same sweatpants for a week and not bathe — fine! If I want to sing made up songs about the nephritic vs. nephrotic syndromes in a fake opera singer voice while I study — it’s fine! At one point when I was really isolated I was wearing a lot of costumey thrift store finds, like fake fur vests and rose gold sequin hot pants, usually paired with t shirts or scrubs or something because fuck it, why not, and the pandemic has really let me be my weirdest, most authentic, and sometimes most joyful self.

The intensity of my isolation has made me really re-think what I want out of life, especially as I plan to graduate from med school in a year and a half and have make some life-altering decisions about residency programs. In the beginning of the pandemic, I started doing regular zoom calls with a very close group of friends I’ve had for a long time, and those weekly calls have been the biggest thing getting me through these times: close, reliable friendships are hard to come by in your 30s, and they’re such a lifeline for single people. My goal is to only apply for residency programs in areas where I already have at least one good local friend, even if it means not applying to programs that are otherwise prestigious/interesting/good fits. I just don’t want to take my friendships for granted anymore, and assume that I can move to a new city and some kind of a community will just quickly fall into place?


I have always thought fondly of the times that I had lived alone and remembered them as fun times where I got to be completely in control of my life. I didn’t have to consider anyone else’s feelings about any choices I made in my home. Back in the good old days when I didn’t have to put up my boyfriend’s custom Star Wars art or find a way to artfully display his Funko Pop collection. And I could sit around watching TV all day without someone asking me what I want to do today (This, man! This is what I want to do today!)

I am too scared of COVID to start dating yet, because I am just too paranoid about sharing space with someone new. I am no longer able to work remotely, so I feel like the risk I put myself in just going to work is enough for me right now. The thing I didn’t really expect was how much I miss being touched, and not even in a sexual way. I am not lonely, per se. I don’t need someone around me all the time, but I miss just getting hugs from my sister, my niece, my friends, even my crazy mom. I miss being able to see my friends and hang out with them, and I hate that I can’t go out and try to make new friends yet.

But more and more people are coming to the realization that living alone doesn’t mean that you’re lonely. Living with someone and being unhappy is a much worse kind of loneliness than living alone.


I hug trees–full on squeeze for at least five seconds HUG. The lack of physical contact is devastating, especially as someone who was nicknamed “the velcro baby” growing up due to my love of hugs. There’s also this looming sense that I’m royally screwed if I get seriously sick.

I see this time as an edge case of the soul. I had a sabbatical from work last year where I was able to fully immerse myself in who I was without work and now I feel like I’m having a forced sabbatical from other parts of my soul. Who am I when I’m not productive? How do I love people when I can’t see them?

I have been able to embrace rest and boredom in a way I never have and want to see that integrated into my existence. Prior to this, I was already in the process of creating “little homes” on my nomading adventures in various spots across the country. More than anything, though, I truly hope this collective trauma wakes others up to the importance of community building especially when it’s messy, hard, and inconvenient. Trauma in my life taught me that everything can change in an instant, and my hope is that more people will carry that nugget of truth into our future. The key is letting yourself be changed and in discerning what needs to be done differently going forward: trauma informed vs trauma driven.

I worry the magic and momentum coming out of this period of suffering can be lost in our desperate desire to return to a normalcy that was a delusion anyway. Perhaps this shared trauma point can be used as a connection point, too — and I hope more people join in on doing the hard work, opting for messy humanity over virtual echo chambers.


I did notice some Sunday evenings I would feel sad and at loose ends, I ascribed that to "oh the workweek is beginning" but it might also have been a loneliness thing? I just really miss the casual interactions. Someone who wrote an essay about being introvert in the pandemic noted that for a lot of us, the little interactions — like talking to someone working the counter at the bookstore, or chatting with the barista in the coffeeshop — were far more important to us than we realized, and wow, do I ever feel that right now. I miss talking with a student in the hall, and going to the quilt shop and hanging out and talking with people there. A woman I had only known online through Ravelry started up a Zoom knitting group where we can drop in and talk and knit, and it’s been a lifesaver for me, and something that would probably not have occurred to any of us otherwise.

But I don’t have anyone to bounce thoughts off of so they loom larger and worse in my head.

We are not "all in this together." I have seen references, not blatant but still I picked up on it, that "the nuclear family you are part of is all you need and forget those other people.” While I’ve always felt a bit on the “outside looking in” in my life, it’s gotten worse. I’ve lost more than a few people during this time: people who died, but also some I just had to break contact with because of their attitudes about various things, especially the virus. I’m fearful that after the pandemic is over I won’t be able to cobble a support net back together — that people will close down and not want to admit others.

I also want to feel more free to just go and do things. Less tied to my job, less "you must get ALL your work done before you can have fun.” I didn’t take advantages of opportunities to enjoy life in the past, and after a year locked in my house thinking about the people I loved who died — well, I’ve stared into that abyss enough.


There’s so much that I miss! I miss flirting with bartenders! I miss watching football at my friend’s house. The last time I touched another human was a somewhat ill-advised birthday hug with a friend in late May. Literally, that was it. I haven’t so much as brushed someone else’s hand since then. The complete lack of human contact is …depressing.

But there’s nobody to get on my nerves, nobody to get sick of. I have so many friends who have vented about how stressful quarantine has been on their relationships. My best friend also lives alone, and we have discussed, more than once, how very happy and lucky we feel to be living alone right now. I’ve also been fortunate enough to keep my job and now I’m able to do it from home. I’ve always wanted to work from home, and do not take for granted that I am getting so much quality time with my very old dog in his last stage of life.

When this is all over, I’m definitely never taking a hug for granted again.