The Four-Day Work Week: Too Good to Be True?



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Do you find yourself wishing for just one more day when your weekend draws to a close? If so, what would you think of working a day less without an increase in work-day hours or a decrease in your salary? Sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?

A New Approach: The Four-Day Work Week

The four-day work week is a concept that is gaining momentum among employers. This fairly new approach to work has been tested in Britain with positive results and is starting to take a foothold in the United States. In conjunction with researchers from several colleges and universities, Autonomy (see Footnote below), an independent research organization, recently conducted the world’s largest four-day working week trial to date. Sixty-one companies of varying sizes and industries and approximately 2,900 workers in the United Kingdom took part in the study from June 2022 to December 2022. According to the report, some of the greatest benefits of shorter working hours involved employees’ well-being. The report data showed that 39% of employees were less stressed, and 71% had reduced levels of burnout at the end of the trial. Likewise, levels of anxiety, fatigue and sleep issues decreased, while mental and physical health both improved. The study also showed that the shorter work week allowed employees to strike a better work/life balance and reduced employee turnover. Maybe most importantly to employers, these benefits were achieved without a reduction in revenue. Of the 61 companies that participated, 56 or 92% are continuing with the four-day week, with 18 making the change permanently.

The Four-Day Work Week Concept Implemented in Business

A little closer to home, one such company that has permanently implemented a four-day work week for its employees is The Wanderlust Group, an outdoor travel technology company located in Newport, Rhode Island. Wanderlust began the shorter work week to help its employees during the pandemic. Because the change not only benefited their employees, but also improved productivity and bolstered revenue, the business dropped Monday as a workday in May of 2020 (a support team operates on a rotational basis to ensure customers receive service seven days a week). “. . . moving to a #4DWW was successful for us because it created constraints,” the company’s website notes. “Just like 280 characters on Twitter or no links on Instagram, constraints call for creativity. Creativity creates energy. When you have four days to move the company forward in a week, you find creative ways to get that done.” The extra day of free time gives workers a chance to run errands, grocery shop, clean house and perform other chores, while still having two days off for family, friends, hobbies and personal time. It also provides an opportunity for employees to recharge their batteries, which translates into more energized and productive workers.

Is The Four-Day Work Week A Good Fit for My Company?

That doesn’t mean a four-day work week is for every organization. Like anything, businesses must structure themselves in a way that works best for them and their employees to ensure productivity and success. For example, some businesses, such as The Wanderlust Group, have totally removed eight hours from the work week. The companies that participated in the Autonomy trial, however, were not given a certain model to follow, but only had to ensure employee pay remained the same and workers were given a meaningful reduction in work time. Still other businesses offer a four-day work week, but with no reduction in hours worked. Employees work a 10-hour day to clock a 40-hour week. Some of the potential downsides to a shorter work week – especially if the number of hours worked is not reduced – are less customer service coverage, scheduling issues, decreased work output and more work for others. Cramming a 40-hour work week into four days could also heighten employee stress and burnout. In addition, working fewer days may not fit an individual’s lifestyle for a variety of reasons, such as caregiving responsibilities, transportation and personal preference, especially if the days worked are longer due to the shortened week.  The four-day work week is an interesting concept to consider, though not one that necessarily fits the bill for all. If the four-day work week works for your organization, will you take off on Monday or Friday? Footnote: The full Autonomy report can be found here.
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