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Over the past couple of years, there have been some seismic shifts in how we view work. Motivations, desires and expectations are evolving to the point that employers need to start considering different options if they want to attract and retain top talent. One option is a four-day workweek. The question is: Is it actually good for business? In this article, I’ll explore the answer to that question by evaluating some of the top pros and cons of the four-day workweek and what it means for businesses and workers.
How does a 4-day workweek work?
For 90% of business owners, the pandemic changed everything about running a company and managing employees. It required quick pivots, 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 employees said they experienced burnout “often” or “extremely often” over the previous 90 days. And in 2021, 67% of workers said their stress and burnout had increased since the onset of the pandemic. It’s no coincidence that we’ve also seen an increase in remote working, hybrid working and four-day workweeks over the past year.
There’s no standard “four-day workweek” setup. Like any working setup, there are different variations. In some organizations, it’s a true four-day workweek, meaning employees work approximately 32 hours instead of 40 hours per week. In other companies, employees are required to work four 10-hour days to make sure 40 hours of work is still done. And then there are some companies that take Wednesdays off instead of Fridays. This means employees work Monday/Tuesday and Thursday/Friday. Again … it’s all up to the employer.
Regardless of the setup, the goal is to crush burnout, promote balance and keep employees happy, productive and loyal. And, believe it or not, it’s really starting to catch on. There’s even a brand-new pilot program that has 3,300 workers at 70 British companies (ranging from large financial institutions to small consulting firms) testing out a four-day week this year to gather valuable data and insights on what type of setup works best.
The pros of a 4-day workweek
Employee motivation: Think about how motivating it is knowing you have a three-day weekend coming up. Now, imagine having a three-day weekend every weekend! When employees realize they only have to make it through four days of hard work and stress, rather than five, it does something positive to their motivation and psyche.
Cost savings: According to a study conducted by the Henley Business School, 51% of business leaders report cost savings associated with a four-day workweek (when compared to a standard five-day workweek).
Increased productivity: On paper, you might assume that a 20% reduction in total work time would result in 20% less output, but this isn’t necessarily true. Companies often find the compressed workweek results in greater productivity and output. Microsoft Japan, for example, increased its productivity by a whopping 40% after going to a four-day setup.
Less downtime: The same Henley Business School study revealed companies with a four-day workweek report 62% fewer sick days being used. There’s also less wasted time on the job as employees feel motivated to get everything done before the three-day weekend.
Talent acquisition and retention: Today’s employees are looking for more than just salary. They want to work for companies that care about things like work-life balance. Having a four-day workweek gives organizations a huge competitive advantage when it comes to acquiring and retaining talent.
The cons of a 4-day workweek
Customer support availability: If you’re in a service business where customers depend on you for ongoing support, taking three days off every week might irritate them and/or cause some customers to switch to a competitor.
Scheduling issues: When you’re only open four days a week, it can make it difficult to schedule meetings, fulfill obligations as part of partnerships, etc. You have to find creative ways to work around this.
Increased pressure: When there are only four days in a week to get work done, it puts added pressure on employees to perform. Sometimes the stress can be too much — causing some employees to feel overwhelmed and paralyzed. This isn’t an issue for everyone, but can definitely play a factor.
Employee challenges: On the surface, you might assume that every employee would love to have Fridays off. However, you have to consider the impact it has on their schedule. For example, if you go from a 9-5 schedule to an 8-6 schedule to accommodate for having an extra day off, it could prevent employees from being able to drop their kids off at school or attend extracurriculars in the evenings. Make sure you consider details like this!
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to running a business. You know that as well as anyone. But if you’re looking for a way to propel your company into this new age of business, a four-day workweek could be the answer. Consider testing it out this year!