Trend Watch: Is the 4-Day Workweek the Next Big Thing?
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- Post-pandemic, employers are interested in improving worker well-being.
- Research shows that a four-day workweek reduces stress and increases productivity.
- Many employers think a shorter workweek will become a popular flexible workplace perk.
Shortening the traditional workweek is not a revolutionary idea.
In the 1930s, British economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that by 2030, we'd only be working 15 hours a week. In 1965, a U.S. Senate subcommittee assumed that by 2020, the average working week would be only 14 hours long.
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But here we are, still toiling away for forty-plus hours a week.
Don't despair: If a global pandemic has taught us anything, it's that we can re-engineer the old ways of working. There is no denying now that much of our work — at least, when it comes to so-called office jobs — can happen from home. So why can't it also happen in four days instead of five?
It can: 13% of employers who responded to a recent BestColleges.com query have already implemented or are in the process of implementing a shorter workweek.
Recent Developments on the 4-Day Week Front
- The governments of Spain, Iceland, and the United Arab Emirates have instituted shorter workweeks for a majority of laborers in recent years.
- In 2019, Microsoft Japan ran a wildly successful four-day week experiment. The results? Dramatically increased worker productivity, lower electricity costs, and more efficient meetings, according to NPR.
- The nonprofit 4 Day Week Global recently launched a worldwide program to help companies reduce their workweek. According to CNBC, 38 companies in the US and Canada are participating.
- As part of that program, 70 UK companies have launched what NPR calls "the largest 4-day workweek campaign the world has ever seen." For the next six months, thousands of employees across industries will receive full pay for 32 hours of work a week.
- In February, California legislatures proposed a bill to reduce the workweek from 40 to 32 hours for all non-unionized employees at large companies. Any hours worked over the 32-hour limit would be considered overtime.
How Do Employers Feel?
BestColleges.com asked 185 employers about the pros and cons of a four-day workweek. This is what they told us.
Pros of a 4-Day Workweek, According to Employers
Reduced stress levels
More time to recharge
More time with family
More time for hobbies
More time for furthering education or side projects
More resilient to the symptoms of burnout
Save time and money on commute
More focused and motivated at work
Fewer lost working hours for appointments, caretaking, self-care, etc
Increased freedom of choice and autonomy in how to spend your time
Decreased childcare costs
Healthier employees who take fewer sick days
Employees can manage personal responsibilities on their own time
Creates a supportive office culture and boosts worker morale
Potential productivity and efficiency gains
Increased employee loyalty to the company
Better employee engagement while at work
Better brand reputation
Cost-cutting with regard to utilities and food
Reduces carbon footprint
Creates opportunities to diversify staff, including parents and neurodivergent individuals
Improved talent attraction and retention and attraction of talent
Cons of a 4-Day Workweek, According to Employers
May increase stress for employees who have limited time to complete tasks
Could hurt the income of those who work on an hourly basis
Danger of reduced employee engagement
Potential for project delays
Doesn't work for some business models
Scheduling becomes more complex
Communication becomes more complicated
Harder to collaborate with international clients
Harder to collaborate with employees in different time zones
Customer service might suffer
Cons aside, most of the employers we heard from agreed that the shorter workweek will become the flexible workplace trend of the future.
"There is no reason to believe that the traditional work model is the optimal design anyway — why not try something new?" said Steve Schwab, CEO of Casago.
Frequently Asked Questions About 4-Day Workweeks
Who Wants a Four-Day Workweek?
Honestly, everyone. Well, almost:
According to a 2022 Qualtrics survey, 92% of working Americans would support their employer implementing a four-day workweek.
Ipsos says that 79% of Millenials and 79% of Gen Z want more flexibility at work.
A 2021 Goodhire Survey found that Americans of all generations want a longer weekend, including:
- 76% of Gen Z workers
- 90% of Millennial workers
- 86% of Gen X Workers
- 81% of Boomer Workers
How Does a Four-Day Workweek Work?
There are two models of the four-day workweek:
- 100-80-100: Cuts the hours that people work from 40 to 32 hours a week without adjusting productivity requirements. Workers are paid 100% of their salaries to work 80% of the time while producing 100% of the results previously produced.
- Four days, 40 hours: Condenses a 40-hour workweek into four days. Employees work 10 hours a day for four days a week. According to Payscale, this model may actually increase the risk of burnout.
Are Employers Willing to Consider a Four-Day Workweek?
We had the same question, so we asked nearly 185 employers if they would ever consider moving their companies to a shorter workweek. The majority of employers we spoke with were receptive to the idea.
- Fifty-one employers said they would consider it but had reservations about implementation, employee engagement, and/or customer satisfaction.
- One hundred and five employers said they were currently considering it or in the process of figuring out how to do it.
- Twenty-four employers said they are already implementing some version of the four-day workweek.
- Only five employers said they would not consider implementing a shorter workweek.