A lot has changed in the world, especially since the pandemic happened. Modern offices adapted to remote work and after two years, are slowly returning to in-person offices. 86% of remote workers and 70% of in-person workers experience burnout in their current positions. Employee burnout is a dangerous thing for companies and organizations. Higher rates of burnout result in employees being 63% more likely to have a sick day, with 23% likely to end up in the ER due to unmanaged stress and frustration.
These are high statistics, which have led to employers looking for ways to improve the work environment. Companies from around the world have started to test out 4-day workweeks to see its impact.
What is a 4-day workweek?
The four-day workweek is a shortened version of the traditional workweek. This means the company only works four days a week, usually from Monday to Thursday. Companies have the choice of having employees work 40 hours, with 10 hours per day, or 32 hours, with 8 hours per day. Typically when we say a “4 day work week”, we mean 4 x 8 hour days at 100% salary.
According to a survey, 94% of job seekers in the US are looking for a 4-day workweek. In this same survey, 51% of employees said that they can do their jobs in 40 hours or less. The four-day workweek is seen as the way forward for higher employee productivity levels and work-life balance.
Of course, each new concept brings with it advantages and disadvantages. Let’s talk about the benefits and drawbacks of a 4-day workweek.
Benefits of a 4-day workweek:
1. Increase in productivity
Parkinson’s Law says that “the amount of work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. Applying this in the workforce, employees do more efficient work when they work shorter hours. The four-day workweek encourages employees to focus more on their work during work hours since they have long weekends for relaxation. In 2019, Microsoft Japan tested the 4-day workweek and it led to a 40% increase in productivity.
2. Happier workforce
The 4-day workweek helps an employee have a work-life balance. Bolt adopted the 4-day workweek and 84% of their employees had an improved work-life balance. Not only does having shorter hours increase employee satisfaction, but it also increases an employee’s loyalty to a company – to be exact, there’s a 20% increase in employee commitment.
3. More job applications and employee retention
Based on the data the job board website Ziprecuiter has, job postings with 4-day workweeks receive 15% more applications than other job postings. Companies that offer a flexible work pattern are one thing that attracts job applicants while persuading current employees to stay at the company. In 2019, MRL Consulting did a trial run that resulted in a 25% increase in productivity, with a 95% employee retention rate.
4. Less employee health issues
Long hours of work have been linked to an increase in depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. Shorter workweeks with three-day weekends give employees more time to rest and recharge after a busy and draining workweek. Most employees allocate doing house errands during the weekends. Having that extra day off allows them to have a day solely for leisure or sleeping.
5. Decrease in business expenses
4-day workweeks not only reduce expenses for employers but also for their employees. Normal business costs consist of electricity, heating, rental, and other miscellaneous expenses such as team lunches or dinners. With 4-day workweeks, businesses save more money on these utilities and supplies. For employees, this means a reduction in commute expenses and less money needed to spend on food and coffee.
Drawbacks of a 4-day workweek:
With benefits, there are sure to be some drawbacks. Some drawbacks of a 4-day workweek include:
1. 4-day work weeks are industry-specific
Not every industry has the luxury of shifting to a 4-day workweek. Occupations such as doctors, public utility drivers, firefighters, and other public service jobs cannot adapt to a 4-day workweek. A 4-day workweek is only a feasible option for companies that can re-adapt their whole working system. Other business models such as those that provide services or time-sensitive products cannot afford to lessen their work days.
2. Revenue may suffer if productivity doesn’t increase
If productivity doesn’t increase by 25%, company revenue will suffer, since it won’t be enough to compensate. But in recent years, productivity has increased when companies adopted the 4-day workweek, and it wasn’t even by 25%. Productivity levels increased by more than 25% in a lot of companies, such as Microsoft Japan with a 40% increase. The Wanderlust Group’s annual revenue had a 99% growth year over year when they shifted to a four-day workweek.
Countries with 4-day workweeks
To date, there are a variety of countries that are implementing and experimenting with 4-day work weeks. A few examples of these countries are:
Buffer is a social media management and software company that adopted a four-day workweek in May 2020, when the pandemic struck. Another example is Panasonic, a big company, that has given an option for its employees to have a four-day workweek.
More than 70 firms are participating in a 4-day working week trial and many of these firms have said that they will keep it in place after the pilot ends.
New Zealand experimented with the 4-day workweek in 2018. After their trials, they found that stress levels lowered and 78% of employees had an improved work-life balance. Performance and productivity didn’t suffer as well. Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, has supported companies who are “in a position to do so” to implement a four-day workweek.
The employees make the company. Without them, companies wouldn’t be able to operate. That is why companies should keep up with the latest trends by improving their system. Better working environments should be at the top of a company’s priorities.
4-day workweeks bring the company benefits like increased productivity levels, happier and healthier employees, more job applicants and employee retention, and a decrease in business expenditures. A 4-day workweek’s drawback is its limited feasibility which depends on the business model since revenues don’t suffer because of higher productivity levels.