“If the same results can be achieved in fewer days, why keep a five-day workweek?”—Investopedia
Even before the pandemic and the great resignation, reducing the number of work hours from five days to a four-day workweek has already been debated, studied, and experimented with. But the impact of the pandemic had everyone rethinking our priorities and as a result, there is a shift in the way we look at work and how we approach it.
Flexible work arrangements are becoming the norm in the current employment landscape, and a lot of organizations, especially the ones that took a considerable hit with the mass exodus of talents during the “great resignation” are offering flexible work arrangements such as remote work, hybrid work, flexible hours, or the popular four-day workweek to attract new talents and retain their employees.
A lot of advocates suggest that this arrangement increases productivity, and studies about the topic have shown positive evidence that supports it. But let’s try and see whether the four-day workweek has a solid ground to stand on or if it is just the “evolving workforce craving modern convenience.”
In a nutshell, the four-day workweek is reducing the number of hours (days) of work from the usual average of 40 hours per week to just 32 hours, without affecting productivity, thus, no cut in pay or benefits is necessary.
This is a larger-scale application of Parkinson’s law—"work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion.” In theory, having the same amount of work while reducing work hours will help maintain (or even boost) productivity while improving employees’ overall well-being by reducing fatigue and stress from overwork.
With an extra day for the weekend, workers get more time to rest, recover, relax and have fun, spend time with their families, and focus on non-work-related responsibilities (such as chores and shopping) that also require their time, attention, and energy.
After the pandemic, countries such as Ireland, Scotland, and Spain implemented trial runs for the four-day workweek as part of their post-pandemic economic recovery efforts. A lot of companies are also implementing this and other flexible work arrangements for recruitment, retention, and employee engagement.
In 2019, before the pandemic and the great resignation, a study from Henley Business School shows that two-thirds of companies believe that a four-day workweek is beneficial to their business, and of the companies already implementing it, 78% of employers say that it decreased their employees’ stress levels.
After the pandemic, those with a favorable impression of flexible work arrangements agree that a four-day workweek could improve their quality of life (70%) and that greater flexibility at work would improve their mental health (more than two-thirds). They also believe that the extra day off would benefit their family life (69%).
Other studies show that the four-day workweek helps increase the productivity of less overworked employees. In fact, Japan, one of the countries known for having overworked employees, did a trial run of the four-day workweek, and it boosted productivity by 40%.
This arrangement also helps improve employees’ job satisfaction, teamwork, overall well-being, and company loyalty. Shorter work hours decrease stress, and positively impact DEI, especially for female employees with childcare responsibilities.
Its also proven to have a positive impact on employee engagement, with employees feeling happier at work, improved commitment, and fewer sick leaves due to decreased stress and increased time for rest and relaxation. This means decreasing burnout and lower turnover rates for companies. Happy employees mean an increase in customer satisfaction and increase in sales.
There are also environmental benefits of reducing companies’ carbon footprint: An extra day off means less commute and energy consumption (which also reduces energy costs for companies in brick-and-mortar offices).
If there are any cons to the four-day workweek, it would be a certain level of frustration from customers who depend on services from brick-and-mortar businesses. One less day of office hours could mean less accessibility.
This could be remedied by having employees take different shifts of off days (Monday/Wednesday/Friday off shifts), or utilizing technology such as chatbots and AI to augment your customer service efforts.
One thing to keep in mind if you are a business owner seriously considering a four-day workweek for your organization is that it is different from a compressed workweek, where you work longer hours for four days so you can have an extra day off. Compressed work hours have shown a decrease in productivity, employee engagement, and job satisfaction due to increased stress and feeling overworked.
What do you think? Is the four-day workweek worth checking out? And are proper systems in place in your business to support its trial run?
Thanks for reading “A Brilliant Tribe.”