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The Pros and Cons of the Four-Day Workweek

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Published On: February 22, 2022

In 2018, it would have been unthinkable that nearly a quarter of the American workforce would be working from home–then, the pandemic hit. In 2022, UpWork estimates that a whopping 36.2 million workers will be remote in the next five years, almost doubling the number of remote employees from pre-pandemic rates. 

Looking to the future of the workplace and employees’ desire for increased flexibility, many companies are weighing moving to a four-day workweek. What seemed like an outlandish idea just a few years ago is now being piloted across the globe, especially in European countries like Germany, Belgium, and Spain. But what are the benefits of a four-day workweek? What trade-offs can companies expect from moving to this model, and what does it mean for their workforce? 

In this post, we explore the pros and cons of a four-day workweek.  

What Is a Four-Day Workweek? 

Although some companies may have slightly different definitions, the standard four-day workweek proposes that employees work around 28-32 hours over four days and enjoy an additional day off. 

Thanks to technological advances and widespread adoption of digital tools like instant messaging, Zoom calls, and project management software, employees can collaborate more efficiently online than ever before too, enabling some companies to consider making the switch to the four-day workweek. 

Which Industries Are Moving to a Four-Day Workweek? 

Many industries are considering the merits of a nontraditional workweek; however, it won’t be possible for others due to the nature of their business.  

Industries moving to four-day workweeks: 

  • Technology 

  • Content producers 

  • Public relations 

  • Government agencies 

  • Nonprofits 

Some industries that may have difficulty moving to a four-day workweek: 

  • Construction 

  • Food and beverage services 

  • Healthcare 

  • Banking/Financial services 

Here are some examples of companies that have successfully implemented a four-day workweek. 

Benefits of a Four-Day Workweek 

Companies that have piloted or implemented a four-day workweek have reported many benefits for both employees and employers. Although it may seem counterintuitive, companies could stand to benefit from a nontraditional workweek, too. 

Reduced Cost 

From a financial perspective, companies that have moved to a four-day workweek have reported a reduction in overhead costs, such as rent, office supplies, cafeteria expenses, and utility usage. Additionally, employees have generally reported increased productivity levels with fewer hours; of course, depending on your position and industry, this could vary. Please note that if you are already fully remote, you will not see the same savings in overhead costs. 

Employees, on the other hand, enjoy savings in commuting, apparel, eating out, and more. 

Increased Employee Satisfaction 

In the age of the Great Resignation, employees are changing jobs or leaving the workforce altogether. Some researchers believe that a four-day workweek could lead to a happier, healthier workforce. 

Theoretically, employees with four-day workweeks can devote more time toward their personal lives. Specifically, employees could use those extra hours for personal priorities such as: 

  • Spending quality time with loved ones  

  • Parenting  

  • Personal errands and appointments 

  • Home improvements 

  • Hobbies 

For some employees, a greater work-life balance has led to a reduction in burnout, which could lead to long-term improvement in employee turnover, morale, and productivity. What’s more, a supportive workforce that prioritizes attending doctor’s visits and mental health could, in theory, have fewer healthcare costs overall, leading to savings in insurance costs for employers.  

One success story of the four-day workweek is with program developed by Microsoft Japan, which saw employees take advantage of and achieve a better work-life balance. This company-wide shift led to increased productivity and satisfaction for Microsoft employees.    

Recruiting Benefits 

Lastly, there could be recruiting benefits if your company is considering moving to a four-day workweek. After all, in a highly competitive hiring landscape, employers are looking for ways to stand out.  

Cons of a Four-Day Workweek  

A four-day workweek could expand your prospect pool and separate your business from others in your industry when it comes to hiring top talent. However, there are still drawbacks to consider before piloting a four-day workweek.   

Confusing Increased Hours With Increased Productivity 

A common misstep among employers that implemented a four-day week was in failing to reduce actual work hours. In fact, many businesses that implemented 10-hour days did not see an increase in productivity or save the company money. 

If your company chooses to move to a four-day week, most industry leaders recommended reducing employee hours to 32 per week to avoid burnout. Additionally, be mindful of holidays and give employees the flexibility to decide which days to work during the holiday season.  

Customer Satisfaction Could Be Impacted 

Client-centric businesses such as banks, restaurants, or healthcare providers may struggle to provide the level of service customers expect if they are only operating four days a week. Similarly, certain service businesses must be available during hours their customers want. 

This issue could be resolved by issuing an alternating schedule for employees, but this could lead to less cohesion in the workforce. Furthermore, as A.I.-powered solutions like chatbots continue to improve, new options for alternative customer support could become available to meet consumer support demands. 

Should You Implement a Four-Day Week? 

Before you implement a four-day week across the organization, it is recommended you run a pilot to measure the impact. Specifically, each company should consider the following questions:

  • Is this something other businesses in your sector are implementing? 

  • Is this something your employees want (employee engagement surveys and feedback could help here)? 

  • What are the opportunities and risks for your business? 

  • Do you have the right technology to implement a four-day workweek without risking productivity or customer support? 

  • What would be the actual cost savings for your business? 

Final Thoughts for Employers and HR Managers 

While a four-day workweek could be beneficial for some businesses, it doesn’t mean it is the right solution for your enterprise. If you are contemplating a four-day workweek, measure the myriad risks and potential benefits, and be ready to pivot to other alternatives if necessary. 

Looking for more exclusive content? Check out the latest news and industry updates on the Mployer Advisor blog, and read on for a recap of our most recent webinar recap “COVID-19 Compliance in the Workplace: Strategies for Success in Uncertain Times.”  

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Abbey Dean

Director of Content, Mployer Advisor

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