The pandemic called for a lot of flexibility in the workplace, and the 4-day work week concept began gaining steam. The idea of reducing working hours had earlier been proposed, but most didn’t understand how that would play out. It is only recently that people have begun seeing it as a real possibility, especially those who have had enough of the rat race.
Many argue that this new working style will increase productivity and reduce stress, allowing people to balance their lives. The truth is that this new working concept is not yet clear, as we do not know how it will affect our lives and the economy. However, several companies have already implemented this, while others are still testing how it will work out for them.
Keep reading to know how a 4-day work week operates, the pros and cons of it and if this will become a reality for us.
What is the four-day workweek?
The four-day workweek could mean many things, depending on the country or company you’re working at. Unlike the five-day work week, which simply means working from Monday to Friday eight hours a day, the four-day work week is not as self-explanatory as you’d think.
Four-day work week could mean a compressed forty-hour week with ten-hour days. It could also mean a short thirty-two-hour work week working eight hours per day for four days. The concept of this working style applies differently in most countries.
For example, Belgium, Iceland, Scotland, Japan, United Arab Emirates, and Spain have adopted the four-day workweek but apply them differently. In Iceland, they work 36 hours in four days, while in Belgium, citizens work 40 hours in four days. Experts say it is not about how many hours employees work but how much they can accomplish.
An American survey of individuals between 22 to 35 years shows that 80% support the idea of the four-day workweek. It’s clear that much of the working population is pushing for a new style of working and believe that the four-day workweek will bring flexibility and boost satisfaction by 62%.
Many Australian companies are moving towards the four day-working weeks, and soon Australian employees could begin receiving their full payments for working for four days a week. All empowered employees and employers believe this could be the future of the job market.
Benefits of the four-day workweek
Some companies are already using the four-day working strategy and are experiencing the advantages and downsides of this concept. Here are some of the advantages of implementing the 4-day work week according to these companies:
Workplace flexibility is one of the most overlooked needs. It helps improve retention, ensuring there is low turnover. Naturally, people are looking for a place they can make a good income and still find time to enjoy their lives.
Statistics show that 63% of companies or businesses more focused on flexibility attract employees and keep them effortlessly. The best way to boost flexibility is to implement the four-day workweek, which will help improve retention.
Implementing the four-day work week without reducing payment will be even more effective in ensuring employees remain working in your company. For example, Iceland did this and now reports improved retention, reduced burnouts, and well-being of the employees.
Reducing working days and slightly increasing the number of hours should not worry you because real results show that retention remains the same and it keeps employees happier.
It increases productivity
A study conducted by Sanford University showed that overworking employees leads to less productivity compared to when employees work for normal hours. The four-day working week encourages improvements in the workplace, and productivity remains the same or might even improve. It also boosts company loyalty, work/life balance and reduces stress.
In another 10-month trial in which 33 different companies and 1000 employees participated, working hours were reduced by 6 hours, and employees got to work one less day. Results showed that revenue improved by eight per cent and employee fatigue reduced by nine per cent. This, in turn, improved the overall productivity of these companies.
It reduces overheads and costs
The four-day workweek also effectively ensures companies save money, but this will largely depend on how you implement the strategy. If you give your employees three days off, no operations will happen for 72 hours, meaning you will save on electricity bills and other utility usage. It will also minimize the wear and tear of machines, reducing maintenance and replacement costs.
In other words, you can save a lot by reducing working days. For example, Microsoft Japan has had a reduction of electricity bills by twenty-three per cent by testing the 4-day workweek strategy.
An equal workplace
The idea behind the four-day working week is to create a new culture of work and a way for people to spend more time with their families and communities. British research shows that two million people are unemployed, eighty-nine per cent being women, due to home responsibilities like childcare.
If the world adopts the 4-day workweek strategy, this will encourage equality, ensuring that both men and women get to spend time with their loved ones and do other things they wish to do.
Shorter working days boost work engagement
Do you want committed and engaged employees? The four-day workweek might help, as it will minimize fatigue and stress and eliminate absenteeism. A shorter working schedule allows employees to rest enough and enjoy their lives, allowing them to feel motivated to take on new challenges or tasks.
Many trials regarding a four-day workweek show that employees who work for normal hours are more engaged and productive in what they do best. They become active, less sick, and report better overall mental health.
A smaller carbon footprint
The four-day workweek is not only a green idea but also a smart one. It is the best way to reduce carbon emissions and save money at the same time. The four-day workweek will help reduce carbon emissions by reducing the time people spend commuting.
In the United States alone, people spend hundreds of billions of dollars every year on gasoline, which adds up to a lot of carbon dioxide emissions. Aside from that, large factories might reduce production, minimizing carbon dioxide emissions. All this can be achieved by reducing the five-day working week to four.
Drawbacks of the four-day workweek
The four-day workweek also comes with its challenges, especially for companies. Some of the obstacles or difficulties employers may face are:
Many trials on shorter work weeks showed that employees would be happy, engaged, and more productive. But a business is not all about employees and employers. It is also about customers. If customers are not satisfied with your services, your business will fail.
Trials show that most customers complain they cannot access the services they want on Friday since most offices are closed. Many companies that use the four-day workweek rely on chatbots to solve customer issues, which helps boost satisfaction while ensuring their employees rest.
Difficulty in coordinating schedule
With the four-day workweek, it can be challenging to schedule meetings unless everyone agrees to create time. The best way is to schedule short meetings of fifteen to thirty minutes. Also, important things should be addressed first before any other thing. Using apps like Zoom will also help.
It may not apply everywhere
The four-day workweek may not apply in hospitals and factories that must run around the clock. However, experts like Laura Giurge say that a four-day workweek does not mean companies should close for three days. It is all about giving employees flexibility so that they can achieve work-life balance.
Implementing the four-day workweek can be challenging, and some employers can use the wrong approach since they expect employees to work long hours as usual. The concept of the four-day working week is to ensure employees work for normal hours in only four days. This will help boost productivity, engagement, and mood level.
If you want to cover all business days, create a good balance among your employees by ensuring others work while others rest. This will allow all your employees to get the advantage of working four days a week, and you will also feel comfortable knowing the company’s operations are moving as planned.
Are there any companies using the four-day workweek strategy?
Here are a few companies that prove the four-day workweek can be effective:
Buffer is located in San Francisco, California, and deals in making social media tools. The company offers a 4-day work week, ensuring all its employees take a break on Friday. The company also has remote jobs and allows parental leave.
Panasonic is also a famous company in Newark, New Jersey. In 2022 it announced that it will offer all its employees a four-day working week. The company deals with electronics and appliances and offers other benefits to its employees, such as tuition reimbursement and remote jobs.
Emtrain is another company in San Francisco, California, offering a four-day workweek. This e-learning platform also trains employees on workplace harassment, diversity, equity, and inclusion. They also have remote work and offer tuition reimbursement and pet insurance.
Basecamp began offering remote jobs ten years ago and now ensures that all its employees work only for four days during the summer. The company focuses on providing products and services to other businesses, ensuring they boost their productivity and improve communication.
Goosechase is a software company that also offers a four-day workweek. They began using this working strategy in 2021 and admit it comes with challenges, especially for customers. However, after looking at the advantages and disadvantages, they found the working strategy effective, as the pros outweigh the cons. For that reason, they plan to continue using the four-day workweek approach.
This is a crowdfunding platform, and according to the communications director, the companies offer a shorter work week. Employees work from Monday to Thursday and take a break on Friday, but some work on Friday and break on Monday to ensure the business week is fully covered.
A four-day workweek does not only work well for tech companies. This online clothing and shopping company also does well with the four-day workweek strategy. The company began using the approach in 2021 and also hires remotely.
G2i is a connector of mid-stage and startup companies with mobile and web developers. The company also uses the four-day workweek and finds it suitable, as it creates a less stressful environment for its employees.
Will the four-day workweek be effective?
It is easy to see why many want the 4-day work week to kick in. It is good for businesses, employees, and even the planet. Several companies have already implemented it and say it is working effectively.
The shorter workweek approach boosts productivity, reduces costs, and improves engagement and employee loyalty. Employees are also happy as they get less tired, get enough time to spend with their families, and feel healthier and motivated to continue working.
Many trials show that adopting the four-day workweek is possible, especially now that technology will help businesses continue their normal operations, allowing people to have a healthy work-life balance. The only thing to remember is that it is not the hours that count but the work employees put in. If more people begin shifting their mindset away from time-oriented jobs, then it will be easier to implement the four-day workweek.
The pandemic has certainly pushed the idea of a four-day workweek and it has been proved successful in many countries during a study. That being said, there are drawbacks as well as benefits to the working model. Benefits have shown that it improved retention and productivity, reduced overheads and costs, boosted work engagement, created a culture of equal workplace and left a smaller carbon footprint. Some drawbacks included it not being applicable to all industries such as hospitals and factories, proving harder to coordinate schedules, and customer satisfaction may be lower as access to services is lower.
Some companies such as Panasonic, Buffer and Basecamp have used the model and found it to be a success. That doesn’t mean all companies will, as mentioned it can be dependent on the industry. It will be interesting to see how companies will react to this model. Will it be the case where a four-day workweek will be normalised? Or will we stick to a traditional workweek of 5 days? The next couple of years will bring our answer to light.
Ciaran Hourican owns H-Training, an interview training and career coaching business. He has an MSc in Politics and was awarded best dissertation and student of the year. He also has a certificate in coaching and mentoring from the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM).