Why Businesses Should Consider a 4 Day Work Week
While the world has changed in so many ways over the last 50 years, one thing that has remained relatively consistent is our busy work schedules. Although there are various exceptions depending on the type of business, the standard workday is 8 hours a day, Monday through Friday. And, of course, many people work more than 40 hours per week to fulfill job responsibilities or make additional income.
Our demanding work schedules often lead to what is known as “burnout.” As of 2019, the World Health Organization officially recognized burnout syndrome as a legitimate medical condition. The main causes of stress that often lead to burnout include a large workload, people issues, and difficulty obtaining work-life balance.1
A practical solution for burnout
A variety of ideas have been proposed recently in an effort to reduce worker burnout. Some of these include more federal holidays, more paid time off, making taking time off mandatory, hybrid home/office schedules, and more.
But another idea that has been gaining attention in the last couple of years is the 4 day work week. Companies such as Shake Shack, Microsoft Japan, and MRL Recruitment have seen significant benefits after moving to a 4 day work week. This schedule has become more popular for doctor’s offices as well, and ZYTO has had a 4-day-a-week schedule for several years now.
The benefits of a 4 day work week
A 4 day work week is typically a Monday-Thursday schedule. While some companies may stick with 8-hour days, others may increase to 9 or 10 hours per day. Although the person is still working 40 hours a week with a four 10s schedule, they still get the benefit of the extra day off.
There are several advantages of a 4 day work week for both employer and employee, including the 5 well-researched benefits below.
We’ve all heard the old adage that money can’t buy you happiness. Research tends to back up this ancient wisdom. However, there’s another thing that research says can lead to more happiness: leisure time.
Empirical evidence of 4 different studies shows that the amount of leisure time we have, referred to as “time affluence,” is positively related to subjective well-being. The study found this to be true even when increased income from extra work hours was considered.2
An additional day of leisure time allows employees to rest, relax, pursue hobbies, vacation more, and spend more time with family—all of which can increase happiness. Plus, a happier, more well-rested employee is typically a more productive employee.
It may seem counter-intuitive that working fewer hours can actually lead to increased productivity. However, this has been the case for several companies that have switched to a 4 day work week. A few companies that experienced a productivity boost after switching to this schedule include the following:
- Perpetual Guardian – 20% increase
- Microsoft Japan – 40% increase
- MLR Recruitment – 25% increase3
Looking at the research, it’s not hard to see why less time at work can boost productivity. One particular study found that overworked employees are less productive than those who work an average workweek, while a study conducted in the 1970s found that workers were more efficient working 4 days a week versus 5.4
Improves work/life balance
A good work/life balance is important for a healthy and productive workforce. Working too much can lead to burnout which will eventually impact work satisfaction and production. Not only that, but working too much means that there is less time to develop and maintain relationships with family, friends, and ourselves—an important part of overall health and wellness.
A 4 day work week gives you an extra day to focus on other things outside of work that make your life worth living. And, of course, it’s also an extra day to unplug and relax. That’s why after moving to a 4 day workweek, Perpetual Guardian saw a 7% reduction in stress levels and a 24% increase in work/life balance scores.3
Increases employee engagement
It’s interesting to note that despite working an average of nearly 9 hours a day, the average person is only productive for about 3 hours of that time.5 A large portion of the other 5-6 hours is often spent catching up on the latest news, checking social media, and chatting with co-workers about non-work-related things.
When a work schedule is condensed to 4 days, however, the result is that employees tend to be more intentional about the work that they do and are more engaged in the company in general. People that are highly engaged at work enjoy their work more, are more loyal to their co-workers, and recommend the company to other people as well.
An employer that implements a 4 day work week is showing that they are concerned about wellness and care about the work/life balance of their employees. This tends to increase engagement and all of its related benefits too. Plus, a 4 day work week can be a powerful recruiting tool to bring talented workers into a business.
Cuts costs & reduces environmental impact
Another benefit of a 4 day work week is that it can cut costs for both the employer and the employee. For the employee, one fewer day of commuting and spending money on food & beverages adds up over time. And for the employer, one fewer day at the office means one fewer day of paying to keep the office running.
The cost-cutting advantages of a 4 day workweek also have the additional advantage of reducing environmental impact. In 2009, the state of Utah experimented with a 4 day work week initiative, and the results were impressive:
- 13% reduction in energy use
- 12,000 metric ton reduction in greenhouse gases
- $6 million savings in fuel costs6
Are there drawbacks to a 4 day work week?
Companies who are looking to increase employee happiness, production, work/life balance, and engagement while reducing environmental impact should consider implementing a 4 day work week. However, they should also consider the type of business they have and whether a 4 day work week makes sense for them and their employees.
Four working days of 10 hours, for example, may be difficult for those who take their kids to childcare, and it may increase the risk of fatigue. Plus, you should also consider the impact that an extra day off will have on customer service.
The great thing about the 4-day workweek, though, is that a company can experiment with it first and see if it works for them. If being available 5 days a week is critical for certain departments, rotational work on Fridays or other variations such as working from home may be a good way to go. A 4 day work week can also be made an option and not a requirement so people can decide what works best for them.
1. Hopper, Steven. “How America Created ‘Burn-out Syndrome.'” Medium. Thestevenpost.medium.com.
2. Kasser, T., & K.M. Sheldon. “Time Affluence as a Path toward Personal Happiness and Ethical Business Practice: Empirical Evidence from Four Studies.” Journal of Business Ethics 84 (2009): 243-255.
3. “Six businesses that have moved to a four-day working week (and what they found).” Workstars. Workstars.com.
4. Calvasina, E.J., & W.R. Boxx. “Efficiency of Workers on the Four-Day Workweek.” The Academy of Management Journal 18, no. 3 (1975): 604-610.
5. Curtin, M. “In an 8-Hour day, the Average Worker is Productive for This Many Hours.” Mansueto Ventures. Inc.com.
6. “Impacts of the 4-Day Work Week.” Undercover Recruiter. Theundercoverrecruiter.com.