3 ways to decide if you’re ready for a four-day week

May 31, 2023 | Articles

The suggestion and implications of a four-day working week have been around for a while now. We’ve written about it a couple of times already, and on our podcast with her, Katie Street spoke about how she successfully implemented it at at her marketing agency.

However, apart from the podcast, those two articles were written in pre-Covid times, when even the idea of working from home seemed revolutionary. Things have changed dramatically since then, and the WFH revolution has shattered our perceptions behind the meaning and methods of work like never before.

This study, entitled ‘Going Public: Iceland’s journey to a shorter working week’, looked at 2,500 employees in the country as they reduced their work week to 35 or 36 hours, but kept their pay the same. The result? A significant rise in overall well-being—including better mental health and work-life balance—and, perhaps most pertinently, productivity levels that remained the same or even increased, despite fewer hours.

In one of our previous articles on the subject, we cited this study by Microsoft, which trialled the four-day week for its employees in Japan. The results were the same—better wellbeing and a productivity boost of 40 percent. There were also other plusses such as lowering energy and supply costs.

So, as more and more information points towards the obvious benefits of a four-day week, we decided to look at three key questions around the concept, and whether it’s a good fit for your company.

What impact does it have on productivity?

As revealed in the above studies—their are numerous others—it’s very clear that a four-day week generally has a positive affect on employee productivity. Thanks to myriad software applications, most work processes have become a lot more seamless, which means that a lot more can be done in much less time.

Also, there is a direct link between a person’s happiness and their productivity. Having more opportunities for wellness boosters, such as exercising, hobbies and spending time with family and friends, will only serve to enhance one’s motivation and work-life satisfaction.

So, the question here is, do you consider a culture of contentment and healthy work-life balance to be part of your company’s values?

empty office
Just because no one’s at their desk doesn’t mean the work isn’t getting done.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Of course I want my team to be happy but what about the real-world practicalities of a four-day week?

When it comes to introducing a four-day work week, it must be understood that both employee and employer may have to make compromises for it to work smoothly.

For instance, because everyone is working less hours, there might be issues around scheduling and filling in the time for workers who have taken leave or are ill. However, as mentioned, there are plenty of software programmes available to streamline this.

Businesses that operate using shifts may also find a four-day week more challenging—overlapping shifts can lead to higher costs, and you might struggle to fill certain shifts. Again, this all comes down to rescheduling your scheduling and coming to fair agreements with employees.

One thing you should definitely not do, is try to compress the standard 40-hour work week into four, 10-hour days. All this is going to do is negate the wellbeing/work-life balance benefits of the four-day week, and probably lose you a fair portion of employees who are understandably unwilling to partake in such a gruelling system.

Okay, but is this just another post-Covid trend, or is it really better than a five-day week?

It’s understandable that an employer is concerned about output being negatively affected by having one less working day. However, as the two studies above show, the positive effects that a four-day week have on employees naturally takes care of this.

When you’re happier, you’re more productive and willing to go the extra mile and/or make some compromises. Also, by giving your employees the gift of a four-day week, you’re showing that (a) you’re ready to move with the times and (b) you care about their wellbeing and happiness outside of work. This is only going to boost motivation and loyalty, which in turn means higher productivity and better staff-retention.

So, what are you waiting for?

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