With a growing movement to focus on healthy work-life balance, many companies are beginning to re-evaluate their approach to standard work policies, in the hope of happier and more productive employees and providing a more competitive benefits package for recruiting strategies.
One workplace trend that’s becoming increasingly popular is a four-day workweek, which allows full-time employees to take Friday off but still get paid for a full five-day week. In some cases it means working four ten-hour days, while in others it means working four regular days and getting the same competitive salary. Either way, employees get an extended three-day holiday, which allows them to spend more time pursuing rewarding activities outside of the office, creating happier workers in return.
Why a 4-Day Workweek?
There are multiple reasons for the growing push towards a four-day workweek.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average American works 8.8 hours every day. Yet a UK study of nearly 2,000 full-time office workers found that their average time actually spent working was two hours and 53 minutes each day. The rest of the time was devoted to social media and news websites, personal calls and texts, talking to co-workers, searching for new jobs, and taking breaks for smoking, food, or drinks.
To address this issue and the rising reports of worker burnout in the United States, currently at 40-50%, many companies have started to wonder if they could increase productivity by offering an extra day off to its employees. Theoretically, happier and more refreshed workers would be more focused in the office and actually willing to do their jobs rather than attend to personal matters. This would benefit not only the employees but the companies themselves, allowing them to save money by using fewer resources when workers are not in the office. Fewer electricity and utility usage, as well as a reduced need for office supplies, are all good economical factors to consider when thinking of a four-day workweek.
4-Day Workweek Pioneers
A good case study for the benefits of a four-day workweek was done by Microsoft Japan in 2019. They allowed their employees to work four days a week while receiving their regular five-day paycheck. This resulted in a 40% productivity boost across the business, as well as decreased electricity usage, fewer meetings, and fewer pages printed. It’s clear from this study that employees will work harder and focus more if they get the perk of an extra day off.
Another famous study was conducted by New Zealand company Perpetual Guardian, which made its four-day workweek permanent after a successful eight-week trial. The company found that an additional paid day off each week increased employees’ engagement and reduced their stress levels, while job performance remained steady.
In the United States, big companies like ShakeShack, Basecamp and Uniqlo have been successfully testing and switching to the four-day workweek system, in an effort to meet the needs of their current employees and attract new ones.
These policy changes are signs of increasing interest in finding new ways to work that provide increased benefits to workers and focus more on outcomes rather than hours spent at a desk.
Pros and Cons of a Four-Day Workweek
Before you decide to institute a big change like switching to a four-day workweek, it’s important to look at the pros and cons that come with it.
- Better work-life balance. Working long hours has been proven to contribute to stress and overall poor health of workers, in turn making them less productive in their jobs. On the contrary, having an extra day off allows them to devote more time to their families, hobbies, sports and other activities, which makes for happier and healthier employees.
- Increased productivity. The extra day allows workers to be more well-rested. On the whole, healthier and happier workers are more productive, less distracted and better at their jobs
- Hiring advantage. Since employees place a great value on flexible scheduling and improved work-life balance, they will be more likely to chose a company that provides these benefits, and less likely to change their jobs in the future.
- Reduced coasts. Allowing people an extra day off cuts down on costs associated with running a business, saving money and resources.
- Difficult to implement. Switching to a four-day workweek can challenge the established schedules, workflows and operations needed to run a business. Adjusting policies and briefing workers on this change can be time-intensive and take a lot of resources.
- Increased pressure. Since employees will have one less day to complete their projects, they’ll have tighter deadlines, which will put them under increased pressure and require stricter self-discipline.
- Not for every industry. Not every industry can accommodate a four-day work week. For example, medical and retail employees might have to be on call more often.
How to Propose a Four-Day Workweek to the Leadership?
If after weighing in the pros and cons of the idea, you decide that a four-day workweek is something you’d like to try for your company, here are a few tips for how to propose this idea to your leadership.
- Figure out how a four-day workweek will meet your business needs and what issues can be solved with the new policy. It’s important to be firm on the reasons for the change and the benefits it will bring.
- Highlight these benefits in your proposal and explain how it will be implemented. Start off strong, so whoever looks at your proposal will be intrigued to keep reading.
- Since every area of your business will be impacted by this change, it’s important to get as much input from different sectors as possible. Your goal is to have a policy that’s fair to everyone, so make sure to include different voices from within the company and address their needs.
- Write an easy-to-read and understand policy that’s clear on the proposed changes. It’s important to understand exactly what is changing and what is staying the same. Your leadership is more likely to approve a policy that’s clear and easy to follow.
With workplace burnout increasing and employees reporting fewer hours spent being productive at their jobs, it’s no wonder that many companies are starting to consider better work-life balance and flexible arrangements for their employees. A four-day workweek has been proven to result in higher productivity and happier workers. With such statistics, any company that’s trying to stay competitive and contemporary should seriously consider this new trend.