A four-day workweek is gaining momentum as a prominent feature of the evolving work-life balance perks in response to the pandemic. It has compelled many in the workforce to adapt to a new level of flexibility, as they quickly and unavoidably transitioned to remote work. This shift is anticipated to continue indefinitely, underscoring the significance of flexibility in today’s professional landscape.
What do these changes entail? Employees are increasingly seeking enhanced flexibility in novel and diverse ways, while employers face the challenge of remaining competitive. Considerations such as salary, benefits, and flexibility have become key factors for companies aiming to avert The Great Resignation and embrace what we term The Great Realization.
As companies experiment with and implement the four-day workweek, the positive effects are being felt by everyone involved. The appeal of a shorter workweek is evident, as 40% of U.S. workers express a preference for a four-day week, according to the Workforce Institute at Kronos. This desire for reduced working hours aligns with the fact that burnout rates among workers across various job fields in the U.S. range from 40 to 50%, highlighting the need for a healthier work-life balance. It not only supports a healthier work-life balance but also serves as a testament to the adaptability and resilience of the workforce in the face of unprecedented challenges.
The concept of the traditional workweek
The concept of the “traditional” workweek has a rich history. Nearly a century ago, during the Industrial Revolution, significant changes in the way we work led to the establishment of the 40-hour “typical” workweek as the standard. This period marked a bustling time for the United States, prompting the examination of labor laws and practices.
Henry Ford, a notable figure during this era, was among the first to delve into productivity studies. He made an intriguing observation: as the number of hours worked increased, productivity actually decreased. Armed with this insight, Ford introduced the standard 40-hour workweek as a means to maintain consistent levels of productivity. In 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act introduced the overtime pay for any work exceeding 40 hours weekly. This measure served as a deterrent for employers from scheduling employees to work beyond the established threshold.
Pros & Cons of the four-day workweek
Balancing both pros and cons is essential for the successful adoption of this practice. This way, we have analyzed each to provide you a specific guide.
- Enhanced work-life balance: Providing employees with an additional personal day allows them to engage in personal projects, pursue hobbies, and spend quality time with their families. Lengthy working hours contribute to stress, which can negatively impact workers’ health. By improving work-life balance, employees become healthier and more prepared for their work responsibilities.
- Heightened worker productivity: Allowing workers sufficient time to rest and recharge results in increased productivity. When long working hours do not overwhelm employees, they experience less burnout and are more efficient in their roles. Remarkable examples from Microsoft Japan and Perpetual Guardian have demonstrated that workers tend to be more productive when operating within a four-day workweek structure.
- Competitive advantage in talent acquisition: Implementing a four-day workweek can also serve as a competitive advantage for attracting and retaining talent. Employees highly value work-life balance and flexible scheduling options. Companies that offer such plans can position themselves as leaders in this domain, appealing to prospective candidates. Employees appreciate working for organizations where management prioritizes employee satisfaction.
- Implementation complexity: Transitioning from a five-day to a four-day workweek presents challenges. It involves changing schedules, adjusting policies, and informing employees about the change. Such adjustments affect various aspects of your business operations, necessitating time to roll out the new structure.
- Increased pressure to meet deadlines: With fewer work days available, employees may face heightened pressure to complete projects within the reduced or unchanged weekly hours. This can lead to increased stress as they strive to accomplish tasks within a compressed time frame. Additionally, external work from other organizations may still arrive on non-working days, adding to the workload and further exacerbating stress.
- Incompatibility with certain industries: The feasibility of implementing a four-day workweek varies across industries. Professions such as doctors and nurses need to be available for on-call duties during the week, making it challenging to provide them with a day off without severe consequences for their employer. Moreover, customer expectations may require some stores to remain open five days a week, posing difficulties in adjusting team schedules.
5 companies that have transitioned to the four-day workweek
Bolt, an e-commerce payment platform specializing in fraud protection and data management, is dedicated to enhancing the ease, efficiency, ethics, and security of online payments. This commitment extends beyond their business operations and extends to their treatment of employees. Reflecting these principles, Bolt implemented a formal four-day workweek in January 2022, allowing each employee to enjoy Fridays as a designated day off.
DNSFilter, a provider of cloud-based web-content filtering and threat protection services for IT professionals and managed service providers, is also involved in supporting entrepreneurs through their global startup accelerator. Demonstrating their commitment to work-life balance, DNSFilter implemented an every-other-week, three-day weekend policy starting in October 2021. Furthermore, they currently offer fully remote positions, enabling employees to work from anywhere.
Panasonic, a renowned technology and electronics manufacturer with a history spanning over 100 years, stands out as one of the largest global companies to adopt a four-day workweek. In January 2022, they made the significant decision to provide their employees with the option of enjoying a three-day weekend. This move demonstrates Panasonic’s commitment to promoting work-life balance and prioritizing the well-being of their workforce.
Nectafy, a content and marketing company specializing in creating engaging content for business-to-business companies, made the forward-thinking decision to adopt a 32-hour workweek even before the pandemic, starting in January 2020. This initiative reflects their commitment to a healthy work-life balance and recognizing the importance of employee well-being. Additionally, Nectafy currently operates with a fully remote workforce, allowing their employees to work from any location.
Buffer, a social media management and software company, swiftly adapted to the challenges posed by the pandemic. They promptly transitioned to remote hiring and made the proactive decision to implement a four-day workweek in May 2020. Despite the changes brought about by the pandemic, Buffer remains committed to its mission of assisting brands in expanding their audience. Additionally, Buffer has embraced the opportunity to hire a diverse range of talent from various locations across the country.
Three main tips to transition to the four-day weekday
Among the forward-thinking entrepreneurs is Kristi Piehl, who made the bold decision to transition her PR firm, Media Minefield in Minnetonka, Minnesota, to a four-day workweek model. Under this new structure, employees now come into the office once a week and have Fridays off completely. Despite initial doubts, Piehl is delighted with the outcome and wishes she had made the change sooner, recognizing the positive impact on work-life balance, family life, and overall mental well-being. Here are her three main tips for a smooth transition to the four-day weekday:
Conduct a trial run
Piehl suggests presenting the switch to employees as a trial period. This approach allows for open communication, giving employees the opportunity to ask questions, express concerns, and make necessary adjustments to their tasks and schedules. Piehl waited until August, about a month after the trial began, to announce that the change would be permanent. This gradual approach helps employees adjust their mindset, find ways to save time, and streamline tasks.
Once the adjustment period had passed and employees were comfortable with the new arrangement, Piehl officially confirmed the policy as a permanent change. She also informed clients, without specifying which day employees would have off. Instead, she reassured clients that her team would be available and responsive regardless of the day, even during weekends, in case of any emergencies.
Don’t disclose the information immediately to the new hires
When it comes to new hires, Piehl advises against immediately disclosing the four-day workweek. While it may seem tempting to mention it in job ads or initial candidate meetings to attract talent, Piehl believes it could raise concerns. She explains that they are wary of candidates who are solely interested in the four-day workweek as it may indicate a lack of commitment. At Media Minefield, employees are expected to stay connected even on their designated day off. Piehl emphasizes this expectation during the announcement of the policy change.
Instead, Piehl suggests waiting until the second interview, when there is a serious consideration of the candidate’s fit with the company culture and the specifics of the job. This allows the four-day workweek to be presented as an additional perk rather than the main selling point.
Encourage employees to shorten their time on meetings
After implementing the four-day workweek, Piehl took steps to encourage employees to automate tasks and reduce meetings. To avoid employees working longer hours on the other four days, she canceled all Friday meetings and urged teams to cut back on unnecessary gatherings. Previously, employees spent a significant amount of time in internal meetings, which proved to be inefficient. Instead, they now rely on Slack to schedule meetings with managers when needed.
The shift in mindset extended beyond meetings, as employees realized the importance of finding more efficient ways to complete tasks. Eliminating time-wasting activities prompted individuals to seek out methods to streamline processes, such as automating forms or sharing files. The change in approach has ultimately enabled employees to work smarter and avoid the need for Friday work, creating a work culture where productivity is valued over the number of hours worked.
Lastly, here’s Indeed’s video discussion on whether a four-day workweek will be future of the companies:
In conclusion, the four-day workweek is gaining momentum as employees seek enhanced flexibility and work-life balance. Companies that implement this approach experience positive outcomes, including increased productivity and a competitive advantage in talent acquisition. Transitioning to a four-day workweek requires careful planning and addressing challenges, but it offers significant benefits for both employers and employees. As the future of work continues to evolve, embracing flexibility and prioritizing employee well-being are crucial for success in the professional landscape.