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All You Need to Know About The Four-Day Workweek

The “Four-Day Workweek” concept has been around for quite some time. Even though a broad acceptance of the four-day week may be hard to obtain, it seems that the term will become a reality or the norm for many.

The average full-time employee in the USA works eight hours a day, five days a week. With a four-day workweek, the employee would still work the same 40 hours per week but divided into four working days of 10 hours each. However, there are different models to adapt the company to a four-day workweek. For example, some companies might implement a four-day workweek while keeping the same eight-hour shift per day, reducing the working hours per week to 32.

According to Erin L. Kelly, MIT Professor: “Four-day workweeks are appealing because so many professional and managerial workers feel they are working intensely and too long, but it is often unclear how to take control of their time.” Therefore, the ultimate purpose behind a four-day workweek is to help employees find a better work-life balance; while the company keeps functioning as it should.

Several companies have implemented a four-day workweek in the past. That was the case of a service firm in New Zealand called Perpetual Guardian, which implemented a four-day workweek for a two-month trial in 2018. As a result, the company saw lower stress levels and higher job satisfaction from employees while observing an uptick in productivity. The experiment was such a success that the company decided to permanently adopt what some call the “100-80-100” system: 100% pay, 80% work hours, and 100% productivity.

However, it wasn’t until the fall of 2019, when Microsoft announced the implementation of a four-day workweek in Japan, that the term became a highlight. The announcement made by Microsoft, one of the world’s biggest technology companies, brought to life (once again) the argument that a shortened workweek is beneficial for both workers and the company. Microsoft stated that after requiring workers to take off every Friday, the productivity increased by 40 percent. 

While some professionals are betting on the four-day workweek, others are still not so sure about it. Either way, the reality is that there are pros and cons behind this trendy topic.

Pros of a four-day workweek

  • Increased productivity. Several studies have shown that overworked and tired employees are less productive than those who work on average 25-30 hours per week. Companies like Perpetual Guardian in New Zealand and Microsoft in Japan have experienced more productivity while implementing a four-day workweek. The world’s most productive countries, like Norway, Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands, on average work 27 hours a week.
  • Efficient use of time. With a four-day workweek, employees are more likely to engage with wasteful tasks such as long meetings, social media, or excessive breaks. 
  • Workers satisfaction. Working fewer hours has a positive impact on reducing stress levels and creating a better work-life balance for employees; therefore, you will have happier employees. Happy employees will engage better with their work and, most likely, they will also be more motivated and creative. 
  • Lower unemployment rates. Some companies might not operate efficiently if their employees are working only 80% of the time. In such cases, companies can fill open hours with new employees. However, this “benefit” doesn’t account for salaries. 
  • Smaller carbon footprint. Having a four-day workweek means that your employees don’t need to commute as much; this would reduce commute pollution. Moreover, large office buildings are in use only four days a week, reducing carbon dioxide emissions. 
  • Lower overhead costs.  If your employees work only four days a week, that could reduce all office costs and maintenance fees by 20%.

Cons of a Four-Day Workweek

  • Expensive risk. The biggest drawback for companies is the risk that workers fail to meet their work requirements. Some jobs take time. It might result in employees working the same number of hours while getting extra pay for 20% of the time. It might be beneficial for the employee but certainly not cost-efficient for the company. 
  • Not suitable for all industries. Some industries require a 24/7 presence. As mentioned before, this could lower unemployment rates but would increment salary costs. 
  • Customer satisfaction. In some cases, customer support relies on office-based staff; if employees have a third day off, it means an additional day where customers won’t access support. 

Tips to Implement a Four-Day Workweek

Regardless of the benefits of a four-day workweek, jumping straight into it may seem a bit extreme for some companies. If you are interested in implementing it in your company, you should consider these four suggestions.

Promote Automation

The cornerstone of a four-day workweek is productivity. It is imperative to maximize work efficiency in every possible way to make up for the time employees won’t be working. If a computer can complete a task, there is no need for you or your employees to spend time on it. If that is the case, your time would be better spent elsewhere, making it easier to adapt to a four-day workweek.

Communication is Key

 Working fewer hours, more productively, is not something you can force into someone’s mind. Before your company jumps into the trend of a four-day workweek, you need to make sure that your employees want that and are willing to work towards it. Several surveys in The Netherlands have shown that some employees would like to work more hours if they had the chance to do so.

Have an open and honest conversation with your employees about the idea of implementing a four-day workweek and its implication. Make sure that everybody is on board with it or at least flexible about the changes.

Do it Step by Step

If you want to implement a four-day workweek in the long run, it is imperative to make the transition as smooth as possible for both your employees and your clients. You could start by reducing the workweek by two hours. If it works, try reducing it by four hours and so on until you get your employees to work four days a week.

If your clients require continuous support or service, reducing the workweek might be prejudicial for your company. In that case, you could establish rotating schedules making sure that there are no gaps in the service.

Measure Productivity

As we mentioned before, the core idea behind the four-day workweek is productivity. You will need to track down your company’s productivity to ensure that the 20% reduction in time is working out. Allow your employees to be as productive; without making them feel like their time is micromanaged. Remember that happy employees make a company thrive.

If the working world keeps its track, the four-day workweek might soon be a reality. Now that you understand a bit more about the four-day workweek, are you willing to implement this system within your company? Or still not convinced? Of course, there are several factors to take into consideration before making the switch. Find out if the four-day workweek is suitable for you. Make sure to follow these suggestions and remember that the most important thing is to have your business adapted to the people and not the other way around.

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