The 4-day workweek is gaining traction and has many benefits for a company’s workforce, but it also comes with challenges and might not be the right fit for every company or individual.
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What is the 4-Day Workweek?
The four-day workweek is a work schedule model that, as the name suggests, allows employees to work four out of five business days.
There are at least three variations of what the four-day workweek means:
- Hourly variations: 4 days of work at 32 vs 40 total hours per week
- Pay variations: 4 days of work with same vs reduced pay
- Implementation variations: Uniform policy for all employees vs flexible implementation for those who opt for it
Factors to Consider Before Piloting the 4-Day Workweek
The four-day workweek is not a one-size-fits-all approach that all companies can and should implement. Before deciding whether to try it, consider the industry, certain roles within the company, and individual work styles.
Some industries lend themselves to a four-day workweek more than others. The types of jobs that one performs on a computer, like in the tech industry, for instance, can more easily shift to a four-day workweek that emphasizes results over hours worked.
The manufacturing and logistics industries, on the other hand, is likely not going to widespread adoption of the four-day workweek anytime soon, due to backlogs, supply chain choke points, and labor shortages.
Similar dynamics prevent the healthcare industry from reducing the number of workdays. And this is precisely the industry whose workers could use the extra day to recharge. However, the pandemic and labor shortages in the medical field make the extra day off a formidable hurdle.
It’s difficult to make the case for a four-day workweek for some functions within a company.
Customer service or tech support, for example, are service-based, high-demand functions. Though reduced hours per week would benefit the employees, the customers, and thus also the company as a whole would likely suffer.
The four-day workweek is not for everyone, so it’s important to consider an opt-in approach for maximum flexibility rather than a mandate.
While some may thrive on concentrated periods of deep work with little social interaction, others thrive on intermittent breaks and interactions with co-workers.
In a truly people-first organization, employees will have the choice of how they work without judgment.
Why is the 4-Day Workweek Becoming Popular?
The four-day workweek is becoming increasingly popular, with Atlassian and Microsoft Japan among its adopters.
This model is indeed gaining traction in the US. In Digital.com’s survey of 1,300 business owners in the US, 27% have already switched to a four-day workweek, and 35% are thinking about it.
The increasing popularity of the four-day workweek model is arguably due to the ability to defer routine, repetitive tasks to automated technology. Automation takes care of those tasks, freeing up employee time to focus on critical business tasks.
However, the idea is not catching on everywhere. In fact, the openness to adopting this model depends on the extent to which a given company’s employee base works remotely. In turn, it also depends on the business type and industry.
The 4-Day Workweek is Unevenly Popular
Interestingly but not surprisingly, the shift towards a 4-day workweek seems to depend on the degree to which a workforce is remote or in-person.
Companies with a mostly or entirely remote workforce have a higher percentage of 4-day workweek adoption. However, the responses among these types of companies are fairly evenly distributed. That is, the percentage of those who have already shortened the workweek is not much higher than those who are not considering the idea at all.
Benefits and Motivators of the 4-Day Workweek
Business leaders cite the following reasons for implementing the 4-day workweek or at least considering it. The benefits and reasons are listed below in order from most to least influential in leaders’ decisions:
- Higher employee satisfaction
- Reduced turnover
- Higher retention
- Increased employee motivation and productivity
- More flexibility to accommodate employee caregiving obligations
- Reducing carbon emissions through decreased commuting
- Lower operating costs
Other benefits that a company may reap from this model include:
In contrast to the companies with largely or completely remote employees, the majority of companies whose workforce is less than half remote or not at all are not considering this idea at all. Why might that be?
Challenges of the 4-Day Workweek
- Availability for customers
- The right tech support
- Employees who work on the day off, defeating the purpose
- Real or perceived increased pressure on employees to do the same or more in less time
- Ambiguous long-term impact on the business, in spite of short-term trial success
- Misguided course correction for toxic workplace culture
Tips for Implementing a 4-Day Workweek
Leaders who are considering or planning to roll out a shortened workweek can take the following measures to maximize the chances of success:
- Define what success means before implementation
- Set clear SMART goals and KPIs that align with determined success criteria
- Prioritize, automate, or even eliminate tasks
- Minimize disruptions and distractions as much as possible
- Keep work-related social events to a minimum
- Reduce and shorten meetings
- Implement self-service tools to enable asynchronous work
- Keep employee compensation the same
- Solicit feedback on a regular basis through surveys, for example
4-Day Workweek Works For Some But Not All
Even if the four-day workweek is garnering more attention, that doesn’t mean every company can and should adopt it. Data suggests that certain industries and business types may be more conducive to a 4-day workweek than others. It’s therefore imperative for business leaders to take factors like industry, key functions, and workplace culture into account.
Read next: Workplace Trends for Employers to Consider