December 8, 2022

Before the Covid 19 pandemic, remote working was rarely seen as an option for workers, but with workers calling for more flexibility in their work hours, ideas like the 4-day work week are gaining momentum. Advocates for the 4-day work week argue that the current 5-day working week is an outdated model, mistakenly believed to be optimal for the economy but instead unbeneficial for workers. With the so-called Great Resignation promoting more uncertainty across the economy, employers have to look for new strategies to entice new employees, alongside making changes to their business operations. 

A study conducted by Goodhire found that 83% of American workers would prefer a 4-day work week. It is not only employees who are appealing for a shorter work week, countries across the world have started to conduct trials to see if companies could benefit from the idea. Currently, there are several pilot programs across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand, with organisations able to sign up for the programme through 4 Day Work Week Global. 

What is a 4 Day Work Week?

Unlike a regular 40-hour working week spread out over five days, the 4-day working week is a 32-hour working week over four days, with no reduction in salary for workers. Workers work the same workload over the four days with the aim of increasing productivity and improving employee productivity. 

Benefits of a 4 Day Work Week

Proponents of the 4-day work week state that there are many benefits associated with the concept. Some of these benefits include: 

  • Higher performance and increased productivity - In Japan, Microsoft trialled a 4-day work week for its employees with no reduction in their wages. The study found that productivity went up by under 40%.

  • Better work-life balance - One of the primary advantages of a 4-day work week is that it can increase worker wellbeing by reducing stress by allowing workers to have an extra day of the week to focus on their personal lives. 

  • Promotes gender equality - Having a 4-day work week could allow for greater flexibility for women who have care responsibilities. A study conducted by the Women’s Budget Group found that a shorter work week can promote gender-equal distributions across work. 

  • Better for the climate - With businesses increasing their sustainability targets, moving to a shorter working week could reduce the UK’s carbon footprint by 127 million tonnes per year by 2025. This is because longer working hours result in more energy-intensive activities such as commuting, alongside impacting consumer choices. 

Disadvantages of a 4 Day Work Week

  • Incompatible for all businesses - A 4 day work week is time-consuming from an operations standpoint. Companies that do begin the transition would have to adapt, which might not be feasible for many companies. 

  • Customer Satisfaction - In 2007, the state of Utah in the United States began a four-day work for state employees by extending the hours worked from Monday to Thursday. The state had to abandon the project due to complaints from residents who complained about not being able to access services on Friday. Similarly, for many businesses, transitioning to a 4-day work week may impact their sales.

  • Not suitable for all employees - Some employees may prefer the structure of a 5-day work week or want to work more hours for overtime pay.

Final Thoughts

The 4-day work week definitely has its advantages for both employees and companies. Though it might not work for everyone, there are aspects of the 4-day work week that could benefit organisations. For example, the focus on employee wellbeing and climate change could also occur through companies adopting flexible working or hybrid policies.

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