Before European colonization, Indigenous communities the world over were ruled by the seasons and the pathways of the sun.
As colonizers sailed across the oceans, one of their tools of subjugation was imposing the concept of “time”: time as a vehicle of control, as a measure of productivity, and as a way to serve the wealthy ruling and property-owning classes that benefited from workers’ speed and efficiency back in their home countries.
The “40-hour work week” that is standard today across the United States is, reductively, the centuries-long distillation of those violent policies. In many sectors, it’s largely become the assumed minimum amount of work expected of “full-time” employees, as well.
Earlier this month, as a step towards decolonizing the ways in which we work, we decided as an organization to move to a four-day work week. Not only is a shorter work week better for business, but also better to support our work, each other, and ourselves.
To be fully transparent, we don’t have it all figured out either. Over the past several months, our journey to a four-day work week transitioned from a “40- hour work week” to “no meeting Fridays” first. There were times we had to schedule meetings on those Fridays. We’ve all, of course, worked late ahead of a major deadline.
In all of our time at work though, we embody care above everything else, whether for ourselves or each other. More often than we care to admit in our working lives, shit happens. In Corporate America, it’s normal (encouraged even!) to ignore the aches and pains from our bodies and minds, and to only bring the “professional” parts of ourselves to work, all while suppressing that which ails us out of fear of retribution or bad performance reviews.
Our value as an organization and as people, we’ve decided, will no longer be measured by the number of hours we work, how “productive” we can be, or the delusional and deeply artificial “goals” capitalism demands of us. Our value is in our people and the communities we serve and to whom we are accountable being healthy, whole and cared for.
Decolonizing our time and our pay, and moving to a four-day work week, presents an opportunity to reclaim our time, energy and value from the industrial-capitalist system that was built on the ruthless extraction of labor from our bodies, a practice that continues still to this day.
For us, a four-day work week is about more than combating burnout or a quick-fix to boost productivity. It’s not about trying to pack 40 or even 32 hours worth of work into four days. It’s about doing what needs done or all that can be done, four days a week, without strict boundaries or administrations.
Even now, as we strengthen our footing in our new model, we recognize there will be times when something has to give.
At Seeding Justice, we strive to be people-first, as we do in all of our work. So when a midday headache strikes or end-of-week exhaustion (or exhaustion in general) bubbles over, we make sure to support each other, however we can.
The work, as we say, will always be there. If we don’t take care of ourselves and our communities, who will?