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4-Day Work Week: The Advantages and Challenges to Consider

If your company is thinking about implementing a four day work week, make sure to consider these pros and cons!

There are certain things in life we’ve simply grown accustomed to.

Having to pay our taxes every April. Our hair turning gray as we get older. A five-day work week.

But what if the five-day workweek didn’t have to be the case? What if you could spend an extra day of the week reading the book series you’ve been trying to finish, catching up on your favorite show, or finding the time to train for a half marathon.

All of this, and more, is possible when companies let their employees enjoy a four-day work week.

What is a 4-day work week? 

A four-day work week is exactly as it sounds: instead of working five days a week, an individual works only four days, into which their typical work schedule is compressed. Rather than working 40 hours over the span of five days, you’d work roughly 32 over four days.

Depending on what an organization offers, they may tell employees that the work week will now be Monday through Thursday, with Fridays off. Or, some companies may allow employees to pick and choose which day of the week they’d like to be off, depending on what works best for them.

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What are the benefits of a 4-day work week? 

If your company is considering moving towards a four-day work week, you should know more about the benefits this restructuring can bring to your employees and your organization. 

1 Increased productivity

You may be asking yourself, “how can a four-day work week lead to a more productive staff if they’re working fewer hours?” Well, consider the fact that your team will feel less overwhelmed and overworked and will instead have a better work-life balance. 

This balance makes employees feel more energized about their daily responsibilities, allowing them to get more done in a shorter amount of time. They’ll also likely feel more fulfilled outside of work, meaning they’re happier and more focused during the four-day work week. 

2 Better employee retention

Your employees want to work in a flexible environment, and one of the ways you can keep your top talent for the long haul is to give them working benefits they actually want and will enjoy, like a four-day work week.

Giving your team this kind of perk instills loyalty to your organization and persuades them to stay at the company instead of taking their talent elsewhere, like to your competition. 

3 Higher talent attraction

It’s clear you want to keep your top-performing employees, but what about attracting job seekers who can bring more success to your company?

As your recruiters or hiring managers interview candidates for open roles, having a benefit like a four-day work week can set your organization apart from the crowd. If a job candidate is between a role at your company and a position elsewhere, being able to enjoy a three-day weekend every weekend could be what sways them to join your team.

4 Improved employee health

Your employees’ health should be one of your top priorities; we’re talking physical and mental. Instilling a four-day work week can lead to fewer health issues. For example, having a longer weekend allows your team to spend time with their loved ones, enjoy hobbies, or simply recharge, which can improve their mental health overall.

And, if an employee is feeling under the weather with a cold, they can use a long weekend to rest, recuperate, and schedule a visit with their primary doctor if necessary.

5 Reduced carbon footprint

One less day in the office is fewer carbon emissions your employees use traveling from home to work, whether in their car, on the train, or on a bus. Just think about all of the CO2 emissions you could omit from the atmosphere by closing a large office building on Fridays!

6 Reduced office costs

Looking for a way to cut costs or use the company budget elsewhere? A four-day work week can help. Allowing your team to only work four days cuts costs everywhere, especially since the office will be closed one extra day. These reduced expenses could be obvious, like the office light bill, but could also be obscure,  like the cost of coffee, snacks, and other food available. 

What are the challenges of a 4-day work week? 

Before you gather a team meeting and start re-doing your work week policy, you should be aware of the potential challenges this restructuring can cause, too.

1 Making the change could be an expensive risk

One potential drawback of a four-day work week that organizations should consider is the cost risk, especially  if employees continuously fail to meet work requirements and complete tasks. Of course, managers and supervisors would have to handle this lack of responsibility amongst their teams correctly. If an employee isn’t meeting their work expectations, it’s up to the manager to determine whether this lack is the result of the reduced work week or another factor they may not be aware of. 

2 Working 10 hour days is not for everyone

Employees may be asked to work ten-hour days versus eight hours to get all of their work done in four days instead of five. Doing so not only leads to longer and potentially more stressful days, but can also present difficulties for staff with children, since finding childcare could become more complicated.

3 Managing teams could become difficult

Employers considering implementing a four-day work week should keep in mind that if employees can choose which day of the week to take off, it could become difficult for a manager to manage the team, schedule productive meetings, and properly plan ahead. This challenge can be avoided if a company presents a unified day of the week off, like every Friday, so this difficulty doesn’t occur.

Consider asking employees if they prefer a Friday off or if they’d rather have a mid-week break, like a Wednesday. 

4 Having four-day work weeks isn’t possible for every industry

While the four-day work week works for some companies, it isn’t applicable across the board. Consider the companies that need a 24/7 presence from their team, like customer service or healthcare. Can you imagine trying to schedule a doctor’s visit only to be told their office is only open four days a week? For certain industries, this work week restructuring  just simply isn’t feasible. 

5 Needing an org-wide mindset shift

Like any significant change within an organization, the move to a four-day work week requires a shift in mindset that your staff may not be ready to make.

This mindset shift could include: 

  • Reevaluating the priorities of each team
  • Having to limit work-based social events
  • Reducing and shortening all types of meetings
  • Spending less time writing emails and using messaging applications
  • Making sure goals across the organization are clearly defined
  • Creating a plan to maintain employee pay
  • Understanding how to implement asynchronous meetings

6 Having longer work days could increase stress

If an eight-hour work day presents stress and can lead to burnout, a longer work day puts even more pressure on employees. Depending on an individual’s work responsibilities and tasks, longer days could lead to more stress and could therefore negatively impact the employee’s overall health, wellbeing, and productivity.

7 Seeing a potential decrease in customer satisfaction

Because so many industries need their employees to be accessible 24/7—or at the very least, Monday through Friday during the same business hours as their customers—reducing the work week to four days can negatively affect how customers access or interact with your services. And poor customer service and satisfaction could lead to less money for the organization.

Companies that have tried the 4-day work week 

If you’re considering moving towards a four-day work week, know that you’re in good company. Many organizations have transitioned to a shortened work week, giving their team more time to spend with their family and friends, and to enjoy hobbies. Some companies you may recognize include:

  • Atlassian
  • Basecamp
  • Bolt
  • Buffer
  • Cannon (UK)
  • Kickstarter
  • Microsoft Japan
  • Panasonic
  • Shake Shack
  • Shopify
  • ThredUP
  • Toshiba
  • Wildbit

Is a four-day work week in your future?

A four-day work week may not be ideal for everyone, but if you think you can make it work for your employees, give it a try! The restructuring may take some tweaking, or your staff may need a month or two to find their groove, so don’t throw in the towel after one week. If the policy needs some modification, consider sending employees a survey requesting feedback on what should be done differently to reap the benefits that a shorter work week can bring to your team. 

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