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Four-day Workweek Pros, Cons, and Hidden Costs

Is working four days a week worth trying? What organizations gain and give up in the process.

Phil McParlane
Founder of 4dayweek.io
Contributing Experts
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The four-day workweek has become widespread in recent years. Companies are looking for new ways to improve employee productivity, satisfaction, and work-life balance.

Switching to this work schedule also benefits employers. For one thing, they can save money on expenses such as utilities and other consumable costs. This article looks at more benefits for employers, as well as the pitfalls and cost implications at stake.

In This Article


Understanding the Four-Day Workweek

A four-day workweek is a system where employees work four days a week instead of the traditional five. This model involves shortening the traditional 40-hour work week, allowing employees to take advantage of an extra day off each week. Depending on their company's policies, they can work Monday through Thursday or Tuesday through Friday.

About 70% of workers in the USA believe that the 40-hour, 5-day work week is outdated. They said they could do their work in less time. Although the idea may seem attractive, various factors should be considered before introducing such a schedule.

The four-day work model offers many benefits to both employers and employees. We have detailed each of them below to explore them in detail.

Benefits of a Four-Day Workweek for Employers

More Motivation

Reducing the workweek to four days can be a good motivation for employees. Switching to such a schedule encourages employees to work harder and more efficiently to achieve their goals in a shorter period. Also, employees perceive it as an additional demonstration of support and care for them. Having three days off per week is a significant benefit that promotes better rest and recovery.

Increased Productivity

Employees working four days a week are often more committed to their work. Productivity levels remain the same and, in some cases, even increase.

According to research by Microsoft Japan, when they switched to a four-day workweek, their employees' productivity levels increased by 40%. This is because when employees have enough time off, they can focus better on their tasks, are less distracted, and become more energized. Also, a shorter workweek can reduce the risk of burnout and promote better mental health.

Reduced Running Costs

A shortened work week can reduce costs for both employees and employers. Because the office is closed for one more day a week, consumables' ongoing costs also decrease.

Talent attraction

Companies with four-day workweeks find it much easier to attract the best talent in the labor market. Candidates are looking for work-life balance, and this advantage is still relatively rare among companies.

With a four-day work schedule, companies can recruit good talent and convince them to become part of the team in the long run.

Employee Retention

To retain talent, managers should do everything necessary to avoid employee burnout and pay more attention to their health.

A more flexible work schedule is a great benefit that impacts employee well-being and persuades them to stay with the company. According to research, about 63% of companies believe retaining employees with a four-day workweek is easier.

Once a person has grown accustomed to a four-day workweek, few companies can persuade them to leave.

Benefits of a Four-Day Workweek for Employees

Better Work-Life Balance

Employees sometimes need more than two days to see to household chores and responsibilities or to pursue hobbies and interests. They often need to find time during the working week to do these things, so they have less time for themselves.

An extra day off gives employees more free time for personal activities. As a result, their mood and happiness levels improve as they have a better balance between their work and personal lives.

A Reduced Cost of Living

Employees will spend less time and money traveling to the office and eating lunch out of the house. These savings translate into more funds available for their household, personal endeavors, and savings.

Pitfalls About Offering a Four-Day Workweek

Despite all the advantages of the four-day workweek, it also has some disadvantages, which are important to consider.

A manager standing in an empty office, concerned about the cost implications of a four-day workweek.

Not for Every Business Model

Some businesses require a continuous or round-the-clock presence, making the transition to a four-day workweek nearly impossible.

For example, customer service and certain retail departments are expected to be available for customers around the clock.

These businesses may investigate a model where they keep the traditional five-day or even seven-day workweek around a schedule. They can reduce the working time of individuals to amount to four days per week at most.

Difficulty Managing a Team

It can be difficult to manage multiple groups of employees in a four-day workweek, especially if the company works 24/7. If employees' days off are not evenly distributed, organizing meetings and managing projects can be problematic.

Additional Costs for Some Companies

For some companies, moving to a four-day workweek requires hiring more employees.

This is especially difficult for industries that need employees to be available for customer service around the clock. These points must be considered so the business can maintain its competitive edge. Without proper support, customers are more likely to contact other companies that provide similar services but stay on call 24/7.

Longer Working Hours and Additional Stress

According to statistics, about 40% of employees worry their workload will become unbearable due to a shorter work week. In most cases, employees who work four days a week still work 40 hours. The only difference is that they do it in four days instead of five. That’s an average of 10 hours daily.

These long days can significantly impact workers' stress levels, the quality of their work, and their well-being. While the idea of the four-day workweek is that more time off helps with work-life balance, if workers work too hard during these four-day schedules, it can hurt that balance.

Financial Implications

Switching to a four-day working week can bring companies significant savings. For example, employers can save on energy bills and office cleaning services. Reducing the use of office supplies can also result in even more significant savings. Moreover, these policies can allow for a reduction in employee benefits, such as company meals.

However, it is also worth remembering the hidden financial costs that companies may incur. For starters, the company may need to increase employee salaries to get more hands on board or invest in productivity improvements. These costs must align with the needs of the company and employees.

Cutting the expected working hours from 40 to 32 may also increase the likelihood of overtime payments incurred by employees who work late.

For some businesses, there is also a potential sacrifice of income. If, for example, a client expects their service provider to be available five days a week, they may shy away from dealing with a prover who runs a four-day workweek for their entire workforce.

Considering the industry the company operates in is very important. Before switching to a four-day work week, it is necessary to carefully evaluate all aspects and ensure that these changes will be beneficial and efficient for the company.

Switching From a Five-Day to a Four-Day Workweek

Switching your organization from a five-day to a four-day workweek can be a significant step. It can potentially affect productivity, employee morale, and the company's overall well-being.

Here are some tips to make the transition to a four-day schedule a success:

  • Conduct an extensive analysis: Consider all aspects of the potential change for the company and employees. Evaluate the possible pros and cons, as well as the financial and organizational implications.
  • Discuss the change with employees: Include employees in the decision-making process and allow them to express their opinions. Address any concerns they have so that the decision is made in partnership with your team, not for them. A key concern may likely be how the new arrangement impacts remuneration.
  • Develop a schedule transition plan: You need to develop a detailed plan outlining exactly how the company will transition to the new four-day schedule. You should also consider training employees on any new work processes made necessary by the change.
  • Provide flexibility: Make work schedules flexible to meet the needs of different employees. Also, consider the opportunity to work remotely.
  • Provide support: You must create a feedback and support system for employees to share their impressions and suggestions for improving the new work week.
  • Evaluate the results: After implementing the new work schedule, evaluate its effectiveness and impact on employee productivity and happiness. After analyzing the results, make the necessary corrections and improvements.

By switching to a four-day workweek, your organization can become more flexible, productive, and engaging for employees, which can ultimately benefit the entire business.

Conclusion

The four-day workweek has pros and cons, as well as hidden costs, that need to be considered when considering this work model. For one, switching to a four-day workweek can bring many benefits. It can improve employees' work-life balance, increase their motivation and productivity, attract new talent, and improve the company's image.

Meanwhile, there are downsides. Some employees may have difficulty adapting to longer working hours and unplanned overtime. This can have a negative impact on their health and well-being.

Overall, switching to a four-day workweek requires careful analysis and planning on your part. With the right approach, you can successfully transition to this work model and enjoy its benefits.

Phil McParlane
Founder of 4dayweek.io
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Phil is the founder of the world's largest 4 day week job board (4dayweek.io)

Previously he worked as a Data Scientist & Software Engineer at Microsoft, Yahoo and Solarwinds. After feeling disengaged with the 9-5, Phil quit his job to build 4dayweek.io, a job board for jobs with a better work-life balance.

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