What would you do with a three day weekend? You might spend more time with your family, catch up on a hobby or project, or learn to cook something new. This might seem rare, but companies are looking to make this a reality.

The concept of the four-day workweek has become increasingly popular among top companies. Organizations like Shake Shack and Basecamp have reported testing a four-day workweek, and others are following suit.

Many companies are rethinking how they work due to coronavirus (COVID-19), and some are considering implementing a four-day workweek. Andrew Barnes, the author of The 4 Day Week, said, "By focusing on productivity and output rather than time spent in a workplace, the four-day week allows for better work-life balance, improved employee satisfaction, retention, and mental health."

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Keep reading to learn more about 4-day workweeks and how to implement them.

In This Post:


What Is a 4-Day Workweek?

A four-day workweek is just what it sounds like, but its implementation can vary. Some plans compensate workers for five days worth of work, even though they're working a four-day workweek, while others only compensate workers for four days worth of work. Employers who implement a four-day workweek might require each workday to be ten hours long, rather than the standard eight hour day. Each plan is unique to each organization and its policies, so there isn't a one size fits all solution.

There are multiple reasons for the growing push for a 4-day workweek. Worker productivity has increased by as much as 5% annually from 1987 to 2015, but compensation never grew by more than 2% per year in that period. All while average hours worked per week has stayed near 43 hours since 1970. Workers have been able to do more work in less time, but haven't been compensated fairly and are looking to finally realize some of these gains.

Companies can also save money from using fewer resources when employees spend less time in the office. They won't have to pay for electricity and utility usage when no employees will be in the building. Office resources like paper and custodial services are also not used or needed on those off days, saving money. Companies also look for increased productivity from workers as they're more refreshed and ready to work from long weekends and better work-life balance.

A good case study for the benefits of a four-day workweek was done by Microsoft Japan in the summer of 2019. Employees there worked four days a week while receiving their normal five-day paycheck. The results that they saw speak for themselves.

They reported increased efficiency across the business. Decreased electricity usage, fewer meetings held, and fewer pages printed helped contribute. The company says this all resulted in a 40% productivity boost across the business.

Microsoft Japan isn't the only business or country that has tried this either. Another well-known example is of a New Zealand trust management company called Perpetual Guardian. After switching to a four-day workweek with a normal week's salary, they reported a 20% gain in employee productivity. They also saw a 27% reduction in work stress levels and a 45% increase in work-life balance. In seeing the results, they decided to make the policy permanent. New Zealand's Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, recently encouraged businesses that are "in a position to do so", to adopt a four-day workweek. Not only would it boost employee productivity, but it would also give New Zealanders more leisure time and boost domestic tourism as New Zealand reopens after the coronavirus lockdown.

The four-day workweek is quite popular in Europe as well. The UK Labour Party adopted the four-day workweek as an official policy. The Netherlands' average weekly working hours are about 29 hours, which are the lowest of any industrialized nation. This was implemented to ensure work-life balance for workers regardless of industry. All these policy changes are signs of increasing interest in finding new ways to work that provide increased benefits to workers.


4-Day Workweek Pros and Cons

While there are many benefits discussed with a 4-day workweek, there are some drawbacks as well. Balancing both is essential for the successful adoption of this workplace practice.


Pros:

  • Better work-life balance: Giving employees an extra personal day allows them to work on personal projects, hobbies, and spend more time with their families. Working long hours contributes to stress, which in turn can have negative health effects on workers. Improved work-life balance helps employees be healthier and ready to work.
  • Increased worker productivity: Workers are more productive when given time to rest and relax adequately. Workers will be less burnt out from long working hours and will be more productive at their jobs. As seen from Microsoft Japan and Perpetual Guardian, workers are more productive during a four-day workweek.
  • Competitive advantage for hiring: A four-day workweek is also a competitive advantage for employees. Employees value work-life balance and flexible scheduling. Companies can advertise themselves as leaders in that space if they offer plans like this. Employees enjoy working at a company where management places employee satisfaction first.

Cons:

  • Complex to implement: Changing from a five-day to four-day workweek isn't easy to do. Schedules have to be changed, policies adjusted, and workers briefed about the change. This adjusts the way all aspects of your business function, so it can take time to roll it out.
  • Increased pressure with deadlines: Workers will have fewer days to complete projects while working reduced or the same number of hours per week. This can put increased pressure on employees to get things done when they have less time. Work from outside organizations can still come in on days that aren't worked, creating additional stress.
  • Doesn't work with every industry: Not every industry can switch to a four-day workweek as well. Doctors and nurses need to be on call during the week, and giving them a day off can have severe consequences for their employer. Customers expect some stores to stay open five days a week as well, making it hard to switch team schedules.

4-Day Workweek Statistics

1. 15% of organizations offer four-day workweeks to some of their employees, up from 13% in 2017.

(Society for Human Resource Management)

2. The number of ZipRecruiter jobs that mention four day weeks is up 67% this year. (USA Today)

3. 40% of U.S. workers would prefer a four-day week. (Workforce Institute at Kronos)

4. The average U.K. office worker is only productive for two hours and 53 minutes on a normal workday.

(Vouchercloud.com)

5. Schedule flexibility is nearly twice as important to remote workers (92%) as it is to on-site workers.

(Owl Labs State of Remote Work)

6. 66% of surveyed workers wanted to work less than five days a week but only 17% of their employers offered that option. (Robert Half)

7. Rates of burnout in workers across most U.S. job fields are 40 to 50%. (Business Insider)

8. The average U.S. worker works about 38.6 hours per week.

(Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development)

9. 22% of on-site workers feel overworked. (Owl Labs State of Remote Work)

10. On-site workers are working longer weeks because it's required, while remote workers are doing so because they enjoy what they do. (Owl Labs State of Remote Work)



1. Determine what business needs will be met by a four-day workweek.

Thinking of the reasons why you're changing your policy will pay off when you're writing it. Find things that are inefficient and think of how a four-day workweek will solve them. Run through as many as you find and then look back on them. This will stop you from writing up a plan only to discover that you don't need to change your workweek to gain some benefits.

This will also help you find areas that are going to need more detail in writing. The ones that experience the biggest shifts to a four-day workweek such as scheduling, benefits, and payroll sections should be the most detailed to account for the change.


2. Consult with different areas of your business on what they need.

When you're writing this policy you should be working with every area of your business for their input. The legal team will help clarify what language you can and should use, while your HR managers will help you compile resources that employees will need.

Every area of the business is impacted by these changes, so work with them to write the policy that works most fairly for everyone. You'll also see areas that should be written with more detail for workers and so it's easy to pitch to your boss.


3. Be clear about what's changing and staying the same.

The policy should be easy to read and understand what will be happening. A shift like this is big, so it should be spelled out clearly what will be changing and staying the same. It's easier to weigh the risks when the pros and cons are easy to understand, so your boss will be more likely to approve it if it's clear.

One helpful way would be to go through each part of the organization and discuss the changes and what will be done to make sure things still work. This can be done from a top-down approach, going from the highest levels of the organization down to individual teams and workers. Your boss will be able to see how things will change and who will be most impacted.


4. Clearly label the intended benefits of the change.

The most important part to highlight is the benefits of this change. We know that changing to a four-day workweek has its benefits, so those must be the highlight of the proposal. Without making the benefits clear, your manager probably won't read past the first page. Accompany each benefit with a plan to make sure it happens as well. If you're explaining how worker productivity will be increased, explain how you plan to make sure it happens if it doesn't occur at the expected level.

If your company is looking to increase your productivity and employees want to work less, a four-day workweek could be for you. Next up: everything you need to know about paid time off and how to take it.

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