• Rich Barlow

    Senior Writer

    Photo: Headshot of Rich Barlow, an older white man with dark grey hair and wearing a grey shirt and grey-blue blazer, smiles and poses in front of a dark grey backdrop.

    Rich Barlow is a senior writer at BU Today and Bostonia magazine. Perhaps the only native of Trenton, N.J., who will volunteer his birthplace without police interrogation, he graduated from Dartmouth College, spent 20 years as a small-town newspaper reporter, and is a former Boston Globe religion columnist, book reviewer, and occasional op-ed contributor. Profile

Comments & Discussion

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There are 8 comments on Pros and Cons of the Four-Day Workweek

  1. Why is working such a bad thing that we need to do less of it? I think personal productivity and self-worth are inseparably linked. If you ask most people, “Who are you?” they will answer with what they do. People who are proud of doing less — or doing nothing — can only take pride in their own empty shell (such ‘pride’ as it would be).

    I’d like to know more about the mental health effects of working remotely, i.e., working at home. Really, the person working at home has no escape from an unchanging environment. Work becomes home; home becomes work — there is no refuge from either. The at-home worker is more of a slave than if they went to a factory, store, or office and punched a time-clock, because they never punch out. Work is interrupted by family matters, and family matters are interrupted by work. One is never free from either, and neither gets the full attention it deserves. I think the ancient Hebrews had it right: work hard six days a week and then take one day off and be serious about it.

    I am also beginning to sense a rising alienation from the lack of personal interaction. We’ve created a realm of artificiality through zoom, facebook, twitter, and so on. We are not genuinely relating to each other, hence the growing hostility in our society. Reduced work-week and remote working are major contributing factors.

    1. I believe you may be coming from a position of truly enjoying the work you do.
      My work is personally fulfilling as well, but that cannot be said for everyone (for a variety of reasons) and so- the restorative power of more time to live life is increasingly beneficial to those who don’t wake up excited to get to a full filling job. The ability to spend more time with family, friends, and to pursue personal passions most certainly would improve a person’s overall well-being. You and I must just be lucky enough to have our personal passion be linked to our jobs and service to our colleagues.

      The lack of separation between work and life (due to working in home offices) is not new for some- but was entirely new for many- like myself. Like all things, it takes time to adapt to new circumstances. I initially felt constantly exhausted – constantly working – with no line between work and life- but now I feel a complete and natural separation when I leave the room with my work materials (even though it is just 5 feet from my kitchen.)
      I am overwhelmingly grateful to have the ability to work from my home, as it frees up commute time and expenses, allows for me to see more of my family, and take care of life logistics more easily. Simple tasks like… getting through my laundry, meeting the kids at the bus stop, being home for parents who are no longer fully independent. These things add up quickly to an improved sense of self and stability. I would be extremely interested in testing out a condensed work schedule as well. Though, that might not translate to my particular field… I would like to test it out to see.

      There are are far more benefits than drawbacks for me.
      This may not be true for everyone but, finding the balance for our own lives and careers will take some time and trial.
      For so many- flexible work hours and locations are a huge relief to everyday struggles. Personally, I do not want to see us slip back into the old ways of doing things. That would be a shame.

    2. But why must we BE our employment? I am a statistician, but I do that because I’m good at it, I enjoy it, and it brings money. But I don’t want to be JUST a statistician: I am a father, a husband, a painter, a traveler, a photographer, a son, a brother, a pet parent – and sometimes work does not allow me to be all these other things I want to be! And that is not even including the commute! Why should I put work ahead of all these other things I also am?

      Regarding your question about the effects of mental health in a work-from-home environment, I recognize this is my personal experience, but I’m doing great! My productivity has risen through the roof, and most importantly, my satisfaction as well. Family matters do not interrupt my work, and vice versa. The lack of commute means I get to have breakfast with my partner and kids at 7 am. I start work promptly at 7:30 am and I log off by 3:30 pm. At that time I have plenty of time for mundane tasks such as laundry, grocery shopping, etc. I come to the office once a week, and between that and Zoom meetings, I get plenty of personal interaction with my coworkers. My coworkers are my coworkers, not my friends, their purpose is not to fill in the needs for company, but rather to get tasks done and move projects along. Working from home has allowed me to also be able to focus more on other personally satisfying activities, such as exercise, painting, and traveling – which does provide the opportunity for me to interact with people with common interests and whose company is more satisfying on a personal level than my coworkers’. Don’t get me wrong, I love working with my coworkers, but I like keeping my personal life and my work life separate.

    3. Personal productivity does not always mean paid employment; and as someone else mentioned, we are defined in so many ways, not just by our paying jobs or careers. Stepping off of the hamster wheel can allow for productivity in new and exciting ways!

    4. “The at-home worker is more of a slave.”

      Please do not equate working from home to slavery. If its not for you, then so be it. There is no reason to throw shade onto people who can manage work and home life while being MORE productive in the home office.

      I for one appreciate that most of us are offered a choice of working form home. I enjoy not having to take an extra 2 hours every day to come into campus, that extra two hours is spent with my family all while being just as productive (if not more) at home. I’m also of the thought that we could do a little more for people that are required to be in office to lessen the burden of commutes and travel expenses.

      “work hard six days a week and then take one day off and be serious about it.”


      “We are not genuinely relating to each other, hence the growing hostility in our society.”

      Yeah, that’s all zooms fault, not rising inequality and injustices all while working ourselves to the bone. People are can and should still relate to their friends and family just fine.

      I’m more convinced that people work becoming their identity is really the issue behind most of our woes. Work is just a part of who you are, it shouldn’t even be close to all consuming.

  2. Prior to the pandemic, I spent 3-4 hours a day sitting in traffic to get to a job that I can easily do from my desk at home. I now spend those lost hours with my kids. You may be assuming that everyone has the same personality, experiences, and motivations that you do. I work just as hard as I did pre-pandemic and I love what I do for a living. But, I don’t define myself by my job. I’m much more than that. My mental health has vastly improved now that I work remotely a few days per week. Just ask my wife and kids.

    I completely understand that some people are extroverts, workaholics, or define themselves by what they get paid to do. You are obviously one of those people, and that’s great. You should do something that requires you to work 10+ hours a day, 6 days a week. It sounds like that would make you happy. It would be soul-crushing for me. I would never see my family, and when I did, I would be a burned-out crank. I know this because I was. Spending 15-20 hours per week surrounded by millions of other angry and stressed out drivers will do that to anyone. Endless in-person meetings that are unnessessary and unproductive does the same thing. Most of the meetings I was in pre-pandemic were spent chatting about nothing of any particular importance for 30+ minutes, with the final 10-15 minutes being used for the stated purpose. If we booked an hour of time, we were going to be there for an hour whether we needed it or not. My meetings now are more intentional and more productive.

    I’m an introvert. I enjoy being home. I can concentrate better when I don’t have to interact with people physically all day. I like being able to see trees out my home office window while I work, instead of brick walls and air conditioning ducts. It’s fascinating how humans can have a different experience of the same environment. You clearly define yourself by what you produce in the workplace. I definitely do not. My self-worth is not linked to what I produce. My life after work hours is not an empty shell. Far from it. But, I appreciate that working is how you find value in living. You should definitely work a lot. For sure. But those of us who find value in other things should not be forced to live your experience.

    As for hostility in our society, I think that might be a completely different debate and involves many more variables than whether I’m working remotely or not.

  3. I like all the comments above. You make some good points. The two that resonate most with me are about enjoying life outside of work and avoiding the time and stress involved in commuting.

    One summer in college I worked on a loading dock in Boston. The hours were long and the pay was great. I was getting overtime after 7hrs/day & 35hrs/week — and I was working 55 hours. In today’s money that would be circa $1300/week. Not bad money for a college kid. I also commuted an hour each way and barely had time for a set of tennis before dark.

    The money paid for my college, but I was miserable. However, there are people who made a career of what I did that summer. When I see people driving their RVs or pulling their ATVs up to NH or Maine, I realize they earn their vacation times and experiences.

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