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OPINION

There should be more three-day weekends — 52 to be exact

Post-pandemic is the time to redefine the work week.

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When Bostonians set out to enjoy a holiday weekend, they can look forward to finding respite from their daily work while simultaneously boosting the service and lodging economies, which desperately need help. The three-day weekend makes a lot of sense. There should be more of them — 52 per year to be exact.

The concept of a long weekend isn’t new. In 1968 Congress enacted the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved the celebration of three federal holidays — George Washington’s birthday, Memorial Day, and Labor Day — to Mondays. Other holidays — Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Columbus Day — followed. It was a political winner that benefited the travel industry and provided vacations to the masses.

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Trillium Garden on the Greenway in Boston.
Trillium Garden on the Greenway in Boston.Craig F. Walker

Winston Churchill called for “four days’ work and then three days’ fun,” as has Britain’s Green Party more recently. Reduced workweeks are common in the Netherlands and Sweden. It was even in practice in Utah until 2011, with state offices closed on Fridays.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, more American companies began to embrace the three-day weekend with “Summer Fridays.” Will more companies embrace a four-day work week?

This is more than just frivolity. The pandemic renewed our cause to think about how we live and work. The video conference, which was once a technological novelty, has become a mainstay. It’s changed how workers live and where they live. For rural parts of America, there’s been a resurgence. But in some of the country’s blue-chip coastal cities, there’s been a departure. This includes Boston.

People enjoy a stroll and the lilacs at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston.
People enjoy a stroll and the lilacs at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston.Scott Eisen/Bloomberg

The Atlantic magazine recently proclaimed that “superstar cities” like San Francisco, New York, and, yes, Boston are in trouble. Most vulnerable are their transit systems, where the loss of ridership forces services cuts which in turn results in even fewer passengers and reduced revenue, resulting in a “terrible spiral.”

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Moving commuters to a Monday-through-Thursday schedule, essentially eliminating the fifth-day commute, would allow the MBTA to save substantial resources. Schools could be open for a full 9-to-5 day, four days a week, rather than their current partial day operation five days a week, saving parents on the high cost of daycare and state and local budgets on transportation costs.

With 71 percent of Americans working from home during the pandemic, according to Pew Research, the workweek can be redefined post-pandemic.

Allowing more time for rest will have significant health benefits for workers, as well as greater opportunities of access for workers with disabilities. Americans work more hours per year than their counterparts in almost all other countries — hundreds more hours than in Japan, Britain, France, and Germany, countries that also have lower rates of heart disease.

Carson Beach in  South Boston is a good place to relax on a warm day.
Carson Beach in South Boston is a good place to relax on a warm day.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

With more time for relaxation and leisure, there will be opportunities for those industries that have been most decimated by the pandemic to rebuild and even expand their businesses.

The three-day weekend is only one example of what could change post-pandemic. The important thing is for civic and business leaders to be planning for what’s next. The goal shouldn’t be getting back to normal — normal has changed. It’s now about perfecting the new normal. We have all changed this last year; so, too, must the economies in which we work.

Mike Ross is an attorney and a former Boston city councilor.

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