Pros and Cons of the Four-Day Workweek
Many workers have cited the four-day workweek as a highly desirable employee benefit. A Qualtrics survey conducted in January found that 92% of people support the concept and believe it would improve their productivity and mental health.
It isn’t a new idea, of course. It’s been around awhile but it’s gaining in popularity, as evidenced by the existence of 4 Day Week Global, a non-profit associated with the University of Oxford. The organization helps companies implement and determine the effects of a four-day workweek.
In April, 4 Day Week Global launched a significant trial of the four-day workweek in the United States and Canada. With over 38 companies participating, thousands of workers will experience a four-day workweek from April to September.
According to 4 Day Week Global, companies that instituted a four-day workweek found it 63% easier to recruit and retain talent, and their employees exhibited a 78% happiness quotient.
The Benefits of the Four-Day Workweek
Benefits of the four-day workweek include reduced costs, happier employees, fewer health issues among employees, higher productivity levels and better talent recruitment and retention.
Reduced costs for employees and employers. Employees would spend less on commuting, lunch and other daily expenses. Employers would save by closing the office and not incurring all the related operational costs one day a week.
Happier employees. Most employees would like to have more free time, which could even lead to increased loyalty. It would also reduce the risk of mental health issues and improve overall well-being, which could also lower healthcare costs.
More productive employees. Happy employees are less likely to distract their colleagues and focus more on their job. When Microsoft Japan ran the four-day work week trial, the company found employees were 40% more productive.
Better talent recruitment and retention. Additionally, more and more people are looking for flexible work patterns, especially the younger generation. Companies that offer that offer four-day workweeks are more likely to attract and retain talent, especially considering it is still a rare employee benefit.
One drawback is that it doesn’t work for every business. Essentially, many companies that implement the four-day workweek have to overhaul the way they operate. In many cases it may not be feasible.
In theory, the four-day workweek would mean working just 32 hours a week. However, many employers would still expect 40 hours of work per week, except now they would expect it in four days rather than five.
While employees say they’re willing to work longer hours to get an extra day off, working 10 hours a day could significantly increase stress levels and harm their well-being and productivity.
Another issue is that employees who work only four days a week are likely to be less engaged than those working five days a week. According to a Gallup poll, workers who compress 40 hours of work into four days are 5 percent less engaged. This is something to consider, especially for companies looking at the four-day work week as a solution to the problem of an unhappy workforce.
The four-day work week could be a great option for some firms, but there are challenges. To be effective, everyone needs to be working toward the same goals and have aligned incentives. Otherwise, companies could end up alienating employees who are already struggling to connect with co-workers and managers.
While the four-day workweek would be a desirable benefit for many, it’s crucial for companies to take a close look at whether this policy is suitable for their business. One practical approach is to trial the four-day workweek, like the companies participating in the 4 Day Week Global trial, to discover the concrete results of implementing such a change.