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Over the past couple of years, there have been some seismic shifts in the way we view work. Motivations, desires and expectations are evolving to the point that employers must start considering different options if they want to attract and retain the best talent. One option is a four-day work week. The question is: Meis it really good for business? In this article, I will explore the answer to that question by assessing some of the main advantages and disadvantages of the four-day work week and what this means for businesses and workers.
How does a 4 day work week work?
For 90% of business owners, the pandemic changed everything about running a company and managing employees. It required quick turnarounds, flexibility and innovative decision-making. And even today, with the worst of the pandemic behind us, the effects are lasting.
In a 2020 study, 62% of workers said they experienced burnout “often” or “extremely often” during the previous 90 days. And in 2021, 67% of workers said their stress and burnout had increased since the pandemic began. It’s no coincidence that we’ve also seen an increase in telecommuting, hybrid work and four-day weeks over the past year.
There is no standard “four-day work week” configuration. Like any work setup, there are variations. In some organizations, it is a true four-day work week, meaning that employees work approximately 32 hours instead of 40 hours per week. In other companies, employees are required to work four 10-hour days to ensure that 40 hours of work is still done. And then there are some companies that take Wednesday off instead of Friday. This means that employees work on Monday/Tuesday and Thursday/Friday. Again … it all depends on the employer.
Regardless of the setup, the goal is to suppress burnout, promote balance, and keep employees happy, productive, and loyal. And, believe it or not, it’s really starting to catch on. There is also a brand new pilot program which has 3,300 workers in 70 UK companies (ranging from large financial institutions to small consulting firms) trialling a four-day week this year to gather valuable data and insights that what kind of setup works best.
Related: Is the 4-Day Work Week Better? The evidence shows that it does.
The benefits of a 4-day work week
Employee motivation: Think how motivating it is to know you have a three-day weekend. Now, imagine having a three-day weekend every weekend! When employees realize that they only have to spend four days of hard work and stress, instead of five, it does something positive for their motivation and psyche.
Cost savings: According to a study conducted by Henley Business School, 51% of business leaders report cost savings associated with a four-day work week (compared to a standard five-day work week).
Increased productivity: On paper, you might assume that a 20% reduction in total labor time would result in 20% less output, but that’s not necessarily true. Companies often find a compressed work week results in greater productivity and bottom line. Microsoft Japan, for example, increased its productivity by 40% after switching to a four-day setup.
Less downtime: The same Henley Business School study found that companies with a four-day work week report 62% fewer sick days being taken. There is also less time wasted at work as employees feel motivated to get everything done before the three-day weekend.
Talent acquisition and retention: Today’s employees want more than just a paycheck. They want to work for companies that care about things like work-life balance. Having a four-day work week gives organizations a huge competitive advantage when it comes to recruiting and retaining talent.
Disadvantages of a 4-day work week
Availability of customer support: If you’re in a service business where customers depend on you for ongoing support, taking three days off each week could irritate them and/or cause some customers to switch to a competitor.
Planning issues: When you’re only open four days a week, it can make it difficult to schedule meetings, meet obligations as part of partnerships, etc. You have to find creative ways to solve this.
Increased pressure: When there are only four days a week to get work done, it puts added pressure on employees to get the job done. Sometimes the stress can be overwhelming—leaving some employees feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed. This is not an issue for everyone, but it can definitely play a factor.
Employee challenges: On the surface, you might assume that every employee would like to have Fridays off. However, you should consider the impact it has on their schedule. For example, if you switch from a 9-5 schedule to an 8-6 schedule to have an extra day off, it may prevent employees from being able to drop their children off at school or attend extracurriculars in the evening. Be sure to consider such details!
Related: Will a four-day work week produce greater productivity?
There is no single solution to running a business. You know this as well as anyone. But if you’re looking for a way to propel your company into this new era of business, a four-day work week could be the answer. Consider giving it a try this year!