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Over the past few years, there have been some seismic shifts in the way we look at work. Motivations, desires and expectations evolve to the point that employers must consider different options if they want to attract and retain top talent. One option is a four-day work week. The question is: Iis it actually good for business? In this article, I’ll explore the answer to that question by evaluating some of the key pros and cons of the four-day workweek and what it means for businesses and employees.
How does a 4-day workweek work?
For 90% of entrepreneurs, the pandemic changed everything about running a business and managing employees. It required quick turns, flexibility and innovative decision-making. And even today, with the worst of the pandemic behind us, the effects are lasting.
In a 2020 study 62% of employees said they had burned out “often” or “extremely often” in the past 90 days. And in 2021, 67% of workers said their stress and burnout had increased since the start of the pandemic. It is not without reason that we have also seen an increase in teleworking, hybrid working and four-day working weeks in the past year.
There is no standard “four day work week” setup. Like any work setup, there are several variations. In some organizations, it’s a true four-day workweek, meaning employees work about 32 hours a week instead of 40. In other companies, employees have to work four 10-hour days to ensure that 40 hours are still being worked. And then there are some companies that take Wednesday off instead of Friday. This means that employees work Monday/Tuesday and Thursday/Friday. Again… it’s all up to the employer.
Regardless of the setup, the goal is to fight burnout, promote balance and keep employees happy, productive and loyal. And, believe it or not, it’s really starting to catch on. There is even a brand new pilot program that has 3,300 employees at 70 UK companies (ranging from large financial institutions to small consultancies) this year testing a four-day week to collect valuable data and insights on which type of setup works best.
Related: Is the 4-Day Work Week Better? Evidence points to yes.
The benefits of a 4-day work week
Employee motivation: Think how motivating it is to know that a three-day weekend is just around the corner. Now imagine having a three-day weekend every weekend! When employees realize that they only have to get through four days of hard work and stress instead of five, it does something positive to their motivation and psyche.
Cost savings: According to a study conducted by the Henley Business School, 51% of business leaders report cost savings associated with a four-day workweek (compared to a standard five-day workweek).
Increased productivity: On paper, you might assume that a 20% reduction in total work time would result in 20% less output, but this is not necessarily true. Companies often find that the compressed workweek results in increased productivity and output. Microsoft Japan, for example, increased his productivity by as much as 40% after a four-day setup.
Less downtime: The same Henley Business School study found that companies with a four-day work week use 62% fewer sick days. There is also less time wasted at work, as employees are motivated to get everything done before the three-day weekend.
Talent acquisition and retention: Today’s workers are looking for more than just a salary. They want to work for companies that care about things like work-life balance. Having a four-day workweek gives organizations a huge competitive advantage when it comes to recruiting and retaining talent.
The disadvantages of a 4-day work week
Customer Support Availability: If you work in a service business where customers depend on you for ongoing support, taking three days off a week can annoy them and/or lead some customers to switch to a competitor.
Planning issues: If you’re only open four days a week, it can be difficult to schedule meetings, fulfill partnership commitments, etc. You need to find creative ways to work around this.
Increased pressure: When there are only four days in a week to get work done, it puts extra pressure on employees to perform. Sometimes the stress can be too much, leaving some employees feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed. This is not a problem for everyone, but it can certainly play a role.
Challenges for employees: At first glance, you might assume that every employee would like to have Friday off. However, you need to consider the impact it has on their schedule. For example, moving from a 9-5 schedule to an 8-6 schedule to account for an extra day off can prevent employees from driving their kids to school or attending extracurricular activities in the evening. Be sure to take these kinds of details into account!
Related: Will a Four-Day Workweek Bring More Productivity?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for running a business. You know that as well as anyone. But if you’re looking for a way to propel your business into this new era of business, a four-day workweek could be the answer. Consider trying it out this year!