Four-Day Workweek: Pros, Cons and Implementation

As employers do more to support employees’ mental health and work/life balance, the four-day workweek has become a front-runner among evolving workplace considerations. In this competitive labor market, the marked benefits of the four-day schedule promote a culture of employee well-being.

The International Foundation’s soon-to-be-released 2022 Employees Benefits Survey revealed that 17% of corporate employers and 35% of public employers offer compressed workweeks, and 57% of corporate employers and 55% of public employers offered flexible work hours. Additionally, a survey of Foundation members in March 2022 indicated that flexible work hours/compressed workweeks were the second most popular employee benefit offering.

Four-day workweeks don’t necessarily mean four ten-hour days (or a compressed schedule). When switching to a four-day workweek, many companies implement a 32-hour workweek (typically four eight-hour days) with no reduction in salary. Reduced work hours shouldn’t lead to less productivity, but rather a focus on time management and company-wide awareness of the frequency and length of meetings and the potential for streamlining other processes. Other alternative workweek iterations include five six-hour days, and 80 work hours over the course of nine days—giving employees every other Friday off.

New Pilot Program Results

A recent four-day workweek pilot program conducted over a six-month period revealed positive results for all 30 participating companies located in the U.S., Ireland and Australia. The nonprofit 4 Day Week Global coordinated the pilot program and reports that companies that gave their staff an extra day off per week, with no reduction in pay, experienced increased revenue alongside reduced absenteeism and resignations. Companies rated the trial a nine out of ten, expressing extreme satisfaction with their overall productivity and performance.

The nearly 1,000 employees who participated rated the pilot program highly, with 97% wanting to continue working a four-day week. When asked about the monetary value of their extra day off, 70% said their next job would need to offer between 10% and 50% more pay for them to return to a five-day schedule. Workers felt less stressed and burnt out and reported higher rates of life satisfaction.

PROS

The following are key advantages according to 4/day week and their sources: 

  • Increased productivity
    • Most companies that have implemented a four-day workweek report no decrease in performance or revenue. Some companies even report increased productivity and creativity.
  • Improved recruitment
    • Many jobseekers may not apply for open positions unless four-day workweeks are offered, meaning that companies may be missing out on top talent. Trends indicate that job listings offering four-day workweeks get more applicants.
  • Happier and healthier staff
    • Reduced hours and more time away from work generally lead to improved morale and work-life balance. Many employees working a four-day week report a reduction in stress levels.
  • More environmentally friendly/reduction in operational costs
    • Less commuting means reduced emissions and a smaller carbon footprint. Additionally, office overhead expenses including electricity, supplies and upkeep are reduced.
  • Improved retention
    • Once they’re accustomed to working a four-day week schedule, many employees won’t want to return to a five-day schedule, which results in improved retention rates.
  • Fewer sick days
    • Improved work-life balance and less burnout typically lead to lower rates of absenteeism.
  • Better for gender equality
    • Since the majority of unpaid domestic and care work is done by women, an extra day off can especially benefit female employees.

CONS

Four-day workweeks seem to have many positive benefits; however, the change in schedules might not work for every company. Asana shared the following challenges of the four-day workweek for businesses:

  • Difficulty scaling, leading to worker resentment
    • Many of the companies reporting successful shifts to four-day workweeks employ professional/white-collar and knowledge workers. Employees who are in customer service or production roles may not be able to work four days without a large impact on business operations. If certain departments within an organization can’t work the alternative schedule, it may result in resentment among staff.
  • Potential for disrupted customer relationships
    • If an organization has a large focus on customer and client relationships, nontraditional working hours may negatively impact external relationships.
  • Scheduling and implementation difficulties
    • Thorough planning and discussion by leadership are needed prior to implementation. Depending on the style of the four-day workweek, considerations include adjusting internal meetings, scheduling, project management and other core processes.

IMPLEMENTATION

Planning and communication are key to the successful implementation of a four-day workweek. With the rapid growth of this emerging workplace practice, recommendations and best practices are abundant. Here are a few resources that can help get you started:

Harvard Business Review

Wildbit

Wonderlic.

Cara McMullin
Communications Specialist

The Latest From the Word on Benefits: