Samoa loses (a) Friday

In order to facilitate a hop from the east side of the International Date Line to the west, the island nation of Samoa just skipped from December 29th directly to December 31st. Samoans went to sleep last night on Thursday, and woke up Saturday. The change was intended to better link Samoa with its Asian trading partners.

Though this isn’t part of a redefinition of the week, it is an interesting example of a manipulation of the calendar to suit societal change. For religious fundamentalists, this shift will mean the Sabbath will be observed on a different day in Samoa than it has every week since 1892.

Samoan Seventh Day Adventists are wrestling with what to do. They are split into two camps. One will move the Sabbath to Sunday to preserve the rhythm of exactly seven days between each Sabbath. Others will worship on the day called Saturday, which means that for this one week, they will worship six days apart.

Another article asks:

For Jews, it poses a question of a different sort: When does Shabbat start in Samoa?

And are there really any Jews in Samoa?

More at The New York Times.

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Utah reverts from four-day week to five-day week

On this blog, I’ll bring you examples of people seeking to improve their lives through altering the calendar. Sadly, today’s news is the end of Utah’s experiment with the four-day week.

Despite worker satisfaction, energy savings, and better work-life balance, the legislature overturned the four-day schedule that Utah state employees have enjoyed since August 2008.

Still, I feel that any change to the the week, even if it’s back to the standard system, is an acknowledgement that adjusting the calendar can be good for people’s lives.

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Take Fridays off forever!

I’m not the only one thinking about changing the week. The State of Oregon is considering shifting state employees’ schedules to four ten-hour days and then three days off.

Though this isn’t in the spirit of the six-day week, I am pleased to see a major organization thinking about how the calendar affects productivity, and considering a switch to a non-standard schedule.

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The Seven-Day Circle

I’ve finished reading The Seven Day Circle: The History and Meaning of the Week by Eviatar Zerubavel. And it was fascinating.

I expected to learn some facts; historical context and sociological observations into the week would shed light on my project. But I didn’t expect the book to be so full of jaw-dropping revelations.

For instance, as recently as the 1930s, the Soviet Union switched, by governmental decree, to a five-day week. Factories had constant staffing levels, as one-fifth of the work force took the day off each day. I was shocked by this — the seven-day week seems so immovable, yet just last century, a world superpower abolished it. And no one ever heard about it.

I learned of the Journal of Calendar Reform, an American publication that ran for decades, which backed a major effort to reform the calendar. This plan was backed by “Henry Ford, the Secretary of Labor, the publisher of the New York Times, the chief of the United States Weather Bureau, the directors of the Bureau of Standads and the Nautical Almanac, and the presidents of Yale University, Cornell University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, General Motors, General Electric, the National Geographic Society, the American Museum of Natural History, and the American Bar Association.”

And it failed.

Evidence abounds that changing the calendar of the western world is hard. But at the same time, learning how many different calendars have been used around the world over the years is encouraging. People have the capacity to comprehend complex systems, or even multiple overlapping calendar systems in ways I wouldn’t have anticipated. There is hope.

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Why seven days? An introduction to the concept of the six-day week.

Workplace trends in the Western world include: higher hourly productivity, along with an increasing number of work hours. And to what end? Historically high levels of wealth disparity, along with record unemployment.

Higher productivity is something to strive for and celebrate, but not at the cost of social well-being. Not at the expense of hard-working people’s happiness, and the stability of our economy.

A shorter work week is an obvious solution. It keeps more people employed, and while it may seem to impact corporate profits in the short term, it could stabilize our economic infrastructure such that everyone benefits.

Experiments around working fewer hours have not been entirely successful. The most notable — the French 35-hour work week — has been largely dismantled, and who was surprised? The structure of a 35-hour work week still demands 5 work days, so it’s just not substantively different from the old system in freeing up leisure time.

Working just four days a week and then getting three days off would be wonderful from a worker’s perspective, but it’s hard to imagine such a system would be adopted widely. A 20% decline in working hours per week is just too radical for most companies to entertain.

What, then?

The idea is to alter the very calendar the system is based on. The best way to adjust global work-life balance is not to shave hours here or there, or flip schedules around willy-nilly, but to change the very definition of the week.

Imagine a week with four work days, and then two weekend days. Sixty-one weeks (and weekends!) per year. You’d power through four days of work with a sense of urgency and purpose, and then enjoy the two-day weekend you’ve known your whole life.

I know it’s different. I know it seems strange. But what is so special about the seven-day week other than that it’s how long God took to make the earth and heavens? The week we have now is completely arbitrary, and not well-suited to our planet’s modern challenges.

In many fields of work, we might find that with the new pace of the six-day week, less time is wasted. That people find it in themselves to give just as much effort through four work days as they previously did in five. With the quick tempo of a four-day work week, who has time to waste?

This site will be a repository for my research into the social construct of the week and how to transition modern society to a six-day week. I intend to start from scratch, seeking to understand the history of the week, the economic impacts of change to the week, and viability of permanently changing how the world counts its days.

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