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Organizations across many industries are recognizing that the future of work should allow us to prioritize employee well-being. Recognizing the importance of work-life balance and supporting the overall health and happiness of employees not only contributes to their individual success but also has a direct impact on the success of the organization as a whole. To that end, the four-day workweek has emerged as a potential solution for healthier, happier employees. It provides employees with more time to recharge, pursue personal interests, and spend quality time with loved ones. This increased flexibility and enhanced work-life integration can result in higher job satisfaction, reduced stress levels, and improved mental well-being. When employees feel valued and supported in achieving a healthy work-life balance, they are more likely to be engaged, motivated, and productive.
European countries like Ireland, Spain, Iceland, Belgium, and the UK are already experimenting with alternative work schedules. Companies like Microsoft, Unilever, and social media management platform Buffer have run successful trials, while lawmakers in California, Massachusetts, and Washington D.C. are introducing bills that would encourage or require shortened work weeks. It seems the four-day workweek is a topic that won’t be going away anytime soon.
In this article, we'll explore the advantages of the four-day workweek and show how HR teams can play a major role in its successful implementation. Let's dive in and look at how the right approach to reduced working hours can bring greater rewards – not just for organizations, but also for those that make up the very heart of them: people.
The idea of a four-day workweek may seem like an unattainable dream, yet renowned economist John Maynard Keynes predicted back in 1930 that by 2030, productivity and living standards would rise to the point where people only have to work 15 hours per week. This optimism was echoed by then-Vice President Richard Nixon who proclaimed in 1956 that a four-day work week could be a reality in the near future.
These days, due to advances in technology, having a four-day work week has become more attainable than ever before. With the pandemic raising awareness of the need for better work-life balance, many organizations are now taking measures to provide employees with extra time off – one such way being a four-day work week.
With a greater emphasis on work-life balance, many organizations are offering employees the opportunity for extra time off through various four-day week arrangements. For example, some organizations may offer employees a full 40-hour workweek spread across four days instead of five, with a three-day weekend. This means workers may work 10-hour days. Other companies may shorten the working hours per day in favor of a 32-hour week which can be spread across four or five days.
No matter what format the four-day week takes, its main purpose remains the same: allowing workers to get more free time while creating a healthier balance between work and other aspects of life. Companies can benefit greatly from this too, as employee wellbeing will improve – leading to higher performance levels and overall greater job satisfaction.
Juliet Schor, an economist at Boston College, gave an inspiring TED talk on the four-day work week in 2022, which has been viewed by over 2 million people. Meanwhile, books like "The 4 Day Week" written by Andrew Barnes, CEO of Perpetual Guardian – a company that successfully adopted the concept and proved its success – are helping to popularize the idea of a four-day workweek. As more people experience the advantages of this practice, this wave of interest looks set to rise further.
Having a good work-life balance has become a top priority for employees, especially following the pandemic. Earlier this year, results were released by the non-profit consultancy 4-Day Week Global from the largest trial on the 4-day week so far. The pilot program took place in the United Kingdom and involved 61 companies and more than 3,300 employees. The results were overwhelmingly positive.
People reported higher job satisfaction and better work-life balance, as well as less stress. And on top of all that, there was an improvement in product quality and customer service, and employees took fewer days off due to illness or absence.
The founder and managing director of 4-Day Week Global, Charlotte Lockhart, is thrilled by the success of the pilot program and is now supporting a much larger-scale initiative in North America that will run through 2023. She believes that the feedback from this project could be incredibly impactful for everyone involved.
It's easy to see why so many people are getting on board with the idea of a four-day work week. Not only can it benefit employees, but organizations large and small are seeing its value too. Let's take a look at some of the benefits this shorter week can bring:
An extra day off each week gives individuals the opportunity to pursue personal interests, spend time with loved ones, and engage in activities that promote wellness. Not only does it provide more leisure time, but the shortened hours necessitate better management of one’s work time, resulting in increased productivity during office hours.
The transition to a four-day schedule brings about an atmosphere of trust and appreciation between employers and employees alike. In addition, having an extended weekend ahead can act as an incentive and result in increased motivation among workers. This improved morale can lead to better job satisfaction as well as team dynamics that benefit the entire organization.
Long hours and heavy workloads can certainly take a toll on employees. By providing individuals with an extra day off, organizations can support rest, relaxation, and self-care – all of which help reduce stress levels.
From 2015-2019, Iceland ran two large-scale trials of a shorter working week where workers received the same pay as before. This shift had an overwhelmingly positive impact on the quality of life for employees, including less stress and burnout, improved mental health, and a better work-life balance.
The shortened workweek gives employees time to recharge their physical and mental energy. Taking a break from job-related duties provides people with the chance to invest in activities that promote well-being. After getting some much-needed rest, employees return to work refreshed and invigorated, with a newfound sense of motivation and excitement. Allowing for more flexibility in regard to personal time can definitely lead to higher morale and job satisfaction as well as alleviate stress and burnout.
In today's ever-evolving business landscape, organizations are always looking for innovative solutions to improve their productivity and efficiency. The four-day workweek arrangement offers several invaluable benefits that can positively affect any organization's output.
The concept of "compressed productivity" plays a crucial role in this equation. In a condensed working schedule, employees are motivated to make the best out of their available time and optimize their efforts towards higher output levels. With limited time at hand, individuals focus on getting the job done and use their energy more efficiently. This sense of urgency drives them to perform smarter and faster, resulting in improved productivity.
Fewer workdays also allow employees to prioritize tasks better and eliminate distractions. They have a clear understanding of their time constraints and can plan accordingly while allocating their energy more effectively. This leads to increased concentration, improved time management, and enhanced problem-solving abilities. Moreover, the shorter workweek allows ample dedicated time off so employees can rest, relax, and rejuvenate without feeling guilty about it. This emphasis on work-life balance contributes significantly to employees' wellbeing and productivity.
Microsoft Japan found that their four-day workweek in 2019 gave a huge boost to productivity, reporting an incredible 40% spike in efficiency. With fewer days on the job, the team was able to work smarter and more effectively.
Meanwhile, Unilever New Zealand ran an 18-month pilot program which was a resounding success in terms of business performance and employee well-being. Revenue soared, and staff reported feeling more engaged and motivated. Absenteeism dropped by an impressive 34%, stress levels decreased by 33% and there was a 15% increase in feelings of strength and vigor at the office. Feelings of work-life conflict even dropped by a staggering 67%!
In this competitive job market, attracting and retaining great talent is a priority for many organizations. Employees today are seeking employers who prioritize their work-life balance, providing more personal time to spend with family or pursue hobbies. Companies can give themselves a huge advantage by offering a four-day workweek, creating an environment that shows commitment to employees and their wellbeing.
After making the transition to a 32-hour workweek in 2017, software company Wildbit reported that the number of applicants for open positions in the company dramatically increased, nearly threefold. WiLdbit’s cofounder and CEO Natalie Nagele commented:
“It signals externally to candidates when they’re looking for jobs, especially sophisticated candidates, that we’re a company that is willing and interested to change up the way we work. Not to do something just because it’s the way it’s always been done, but to do it because it makes sense.”
Embracing a 4-day workweek also has the added benefit of enhancing employer branding and reputation – showing job seekers and the wider community that the company values its employees and is invested in their success. Organizations can gain a competitive advantage by positioning themselves as desirable employers, connecting with top talent, and enjoying the rewards of having a great employer brand.
A four-day workweek allows organizations greater opportunities to explore innovative scheduling options, like staggered workdays or remote work arrangements. But it also provides team members with more freedom to balance their work and personal lives. A key aspect of making this arrangement successful is clear communication. Regularly communicating expectations and guidelines enables teams to stay connected and informed, fostering a collaborative culture that allows people to thrive in a rapidly changing work environment.
While a four-day workweek may create convenience and flexibility for employees, it's important to consider the potential drawbacks. Longer working hours on the four days could lead to fatigue and decreased productivity. It can also be difficult to coordinate everyone's schedules, particularly if there are collaborative tasks involved. Additionally, this may mean reduced availability for customers or clients which can impact customer service and responsiveness. Moreover, for some people, the added workload that comes with fewer workdays could increase stress levels and the risk of burnout.
When shifting to a 4-day workweek, it’s worth noting that employee salaries may need to be adjusted to reflect the reduction in hours worked. This could involve reducing salaries proportionally or adjusting salaries to account for the fact that employees are now working fewer days per week. However, not all companies will adjust salaries when implementing a four-day workweek, and some may offer other benefits or incentives to offset the reduction in hours. Ultimately, the decision to adjust salaries will depend on the individual circumstances of the company and its employees.
Furthermore, certain industries such as healthcare or emergency services require round-the-clock coverage, so a shorter workweek may not be feasible in these cases.
There are plenty of people too, who are not sold on the idea. In a New York Times report, Stanford professor of economics Nick Bloom commented that paying workers full-time salaries for four days of work was “a tough sell to managers and investors because most businesses are already trying hard to operate efficiently.”
When considering the adoption of a four-day workweek, it is imperative to weigh these potential drawbacks against the advantages to ensure that it’s the best option for your team and organization.
So you've taken the time to think through the advantages and disadvantages of a four-day workweek and decided it's the right move for your organization. What's the next step? Making this change requires careful planning from HR managers, but it can be done!
Here are some simple steps they can take to make the transition to a four-day workweek successful:
Making the switch to a four-day workweek can be an inspiring way for your organization to show commitment to employee well-being and create a culture that promotes both job satisfaction and professional development. Ultimately, big changes require forward-thinking.
flair stands as the ultimate HR solution for forward-thinking companies, offering a comprehensive suite of tools to streamline crucial aspects of any HR operation. With flair, you can seamlessly manage shift planning, effortlessly track employee time, and significantly elevate communication and collaboration within your team.