It’s probably safe to assume that at one point or another, you’ve wished weekends were longer. If only you had one more day to rest, one more day to spend with the family, one more day to practice that instrument or go on a full day hike—maybe you’d allocate one day for errands, one for adventures, and one for rest and relaxation. These extra 24 hours would be totally yours, and you could do with them as you please.
That, friends, is no longer a distant daydream. The way we work is changing and the 4-day work week has been put to the test long enough for us to start applying changes based on results. To evaluate the potential benefits and drawbacks, various trials have been implemented in different parts of the world, from Ireland to Japan to New Zealand, all the way to the UAE.
A 4-day work week can be applied in a number of ways, and the specific approach can vary depending on the organization and its goals. Below are some examples.
Different methods for a 4-day work week:
- 10-hour work days: One of the most common approaches to a 4-day work week is to have employees work 10 hours a day, but for four days a week in place of 5. This allows them to have an extra day off while still putting in a full 40 hours.
- Rotating schedules: Another approach is to rotate employees' schedules so that some work Monday to Thursday and others work Tuesday to Friday. This can ensure that the company is still providing coverage and meeting customer needs during the weekdays.
- Reduced hours: This approach reduces working hours from 40 to about 32 total hours, without any reduction in pay, all with the goal of maintaining or increasing productivity levels.
- Flexibility: Some organizations may offer a more flexible schedule, allowing employees to choose which four days they work.
Ultimately, the approach to a 4-day work week will depend on the needs and goals of the organization, as well as the preferences of employees.
Sounds tricky? Apparently, not so much.
Here are just a few of the amazing findings that were uncovered from research done by 4 Day Week Global, a non-profit organization founded by Andrew Barnes and Charlotte Lockhart:
- 63% of businesses found it easier to attract and retain talent with a 4-day work week.
- A remarkable 73% of workers on a 4-day work week reported greater work-life satisfaction. They also enjoyed improved physical and mental health, with 71% feeling less burnt out, 39% feeling less stressed and 54% feeling a reduction in negative emotions.
- Companies rated their overall experience with the 4-day work week trials an 8.5/10, with high satisfaction with worker performance.
- Workers on a 4-day work week are 57% less likely to quit their jobs.
- Employees reported feeling more productive and better able to do their jobs, with 55% reporting an increase in their abilities at work on a 4-day work week.
You simply can’t argue with those numbers. “We knew the results were going to be good,” says co-founder of 4DWG Charlotte Lockhart, “the only thing that surprised us is that they were so good.”
So, is the 4-day work week going to be our new reality?
It’s definitely time
We need to think about what works best today, and not about what we’ve been used to in the past. While the 5-day work week might have worked for us to a certain extent under past circumstances, we need to keep refining our ways with the movement of time, the advancement of technology, and the shifting world of work.
Not only is employee burnout at an all-time high right now, but there also hasn’t been a more suitable time to finally make some changes to the work week! After decades of increased automation and innovations that were made to give us some of our time back, why are we still trying to wedge more and more productivity into the time we've supposedly saved?
To add to that, the COVID pandemic served as a catapult for some much-needed changes to ways of working, and there’s no reason the 4-day work week shouldn’t be taken into serious consideration now that so much is already shifting, whether companies are swimming with or against the stream.
Sure, the 5-day work week has been around for about 100 years, but judging from the stats, it’s safe to say that there might be better ways to keep employees happier as we adapt to the future of work.
Why it’s good for business
- It reduces overhead costs and decreases your carbon footprint: In a study conducted by the Henley Business School, 51% of business leaders reported cost savings associated with a 4-day work week when compared to a standard 5-day work week. Running costs from electricity, heating, and air conditioning are significantly decreased. By using the office less, businesses can save on energy expenses and potentially reduce their carbon footprint.
- It’s great for employee retention: Offering a 4-day weekend can be a significant employee perk that can help businesses retain top talent. By offering more flexibility and work-life balance, businesses can create a more attractive work environment for employees, which can lead to lower turnover rates.
- It improves recruitment: It may also make it easier for businesses to attract new talent. In a competitive job market, businesses that offer unique and attractive benefits are more likely to stand out from their competitors, especially when these benefits are directly linked to a healthier work-life balance.
- It increases employee productivity: By a whopping 40% at that! Thanks to fewer working hours, employees may be more focused and motivated to complete their work within the designated time frame. This can lead to an increase in productivity and efficiency, as employees may be more likely to avoid distractions and remain focused on their tasks, especially with a 3-day weekend to look forward to.
- Fewer sick-days get used: The same Henley Business School study revealed companies with a four-day work week report 62% fewer sick days being used.
Why it’s good for your people
- It cuts costs for employees, too: This is particularly significant for those that go into an office. Not only would they be paying less to commute, but they’d also be saving on costs like lunch and coffees during the day. And in this economy? Say no more!
- It’s good for their health: Research continues to find a decrease in worker stress and burnout, as well as an improvement in overall health and work-life balance—with more time off, people across industries reported decreased feelings of anxiety, fatigue, and poor sleep, as well as increased physical health.
- It gives them precious time back: Whether they spend it with family, pursuing hobbies, or binge-watching Netflix shows all day, one extra day off might not sound like much at first, but a little really does go a long way. However they choose to spend this time off, they’re likely to value their work time a lot more when they know that their personal time is being valued, as well.
- It increases job satisfaction: We know that resting and recharging is crucial for better health, motivation, and creativity, and we know that flexibility and better work-life balance improve employee productivity, efficiency and morale. What all this means is that overall, your employees are much more likely to be happy and satisfied with where they dedicate their time, talent and energy.
But keep in mind…
- One size doesn’t fit all. Depending on the type of business and industry, a 4-day work week might be more impractical than beneficial. Consider adapting your strategy to ensure that important factors, such as customer support availability, aren’t affected.
- Be mindful of scheduling meetings and calls, minimize them as much as necessary to avoid wasting time.
- Give people options; some might feel more pressured with less work time, and others might feel more motivated. Instead of enforcing one way or another, give your people the option to choose what suits them best.
While the success of a 4-day work week depends on a range of factors, including the nature of the work, the industry, and the specific company culture, the results have far exceeded expectations, proving that this new approach to the work week really is a vital component of the future of work. The stats speak for themselves, after all. With 96% of workers preferring the 4-day work week, it’s hard to ignore the obvious calls for change.
Would people go back after they’ve been exposed to the possibilities? According to 4DWG, 42% would need a 25-50% salary increase to return to a 5-day work week. Lockhart explained, “and then there were the people who said they wouldn’t do it for any amount. Their responses: “you just couldn’t pay me enough.’”
“The conversations are happening at a much greater speed,” says 4DWG’s Lockhart. “And the idea is no longer as unfamiliar as it used to be. I expect that by the end of 2023, it will be considered mainstream”—and we’re totally here for it!