The Recovery Ratio

Here’s a mathematical argument for why you should be working 4 days a week, not 5.

At first glance it doesn’t seem to make that big a difference:

4 days out of 7 = 4/7 = 57% of your days spent working

5 days out of 7 = 5/7 = 71% of your days spent working

The 5-day week only adds 14% more to your burden of work, compared to a 4-day week, but adds 25% more hours  to your workweek, and thus money to your paycheque. Worth it, no?

Short answer: NO. What the simple-minded analysis above doesn’t take into account is the amount of recovery time you get, relative to the amount you work. In other words, the number of days you are ground down by the economic machine versus the number of days you are uplifted by doing your own thing. I call this the Recovery Ratio, and it measures out like so:


The “RR” is calculated by the division (recovery days) / (work days). The standard work week gives a baseline ratio of 2/5 = 0.40.

Note what happens when you work a 4-day week with a 3-day weekend — the RR jumps to 0.75, close to twice the baseline ratio. In other words, you get almost twice as much net recovery — plenty to offset the 20% drop in pay you’d have to take.

The RR really starts jumping into the stratosphere when you progress (i chose that word deliberately) to the 3-day and even the 2-day work weeks, which have about three and six times the net recovery as the standard week.

So if you’re finding the standard 5-day work week a bit, well, inhuman, maybe you should consider angling for a 4-day week. Seriously, this thesis has been tested and proven by many experimenters in the field, myself included.

Not to mention that if we are ever going to get this juggernaut of a consumer culture under control, we’re all going to have to shift our priorities to more satisfaction and less stuff. So the 4-day week is the moral thing to do as well!


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