The Pros and Cons of a 4 Day Work Week

  • Ola Rybacka
  • October 26, 2021
  • 6 min read

Working fewer hours for the same amount of money is the basis of 4 day work week. The idea of working less is nice itself; however, not everybody realizes and understands its meaning for both companies and their employees. Let’s dig into the subject to determine if four-day workweeks and the promise of one more free day are the remedies for the economy’s state!

🤔 What’s a 4 day work week?

The basic assumption of a 4 day work week is fulfilling the duties in a shorter amount of time, instead of the usual five-day workweek and receiving the same pay.

However, these basics vary, depending on a company’s policy. The most popular is a 32-hour work week, which means people work 8 hours per day, 4 hours in a week. However, not every company decides to let their employees work reduced hours.

Uniqlo, a Japanese clothing enterprise, left the 40 working hours per week but compressed work schedule into four days.

✌️ Shortened working weeks are no longer impossible

Working fewer days and (or) hours for the same money may sound quite strange, especially for those who got used to the old order. However, more companies have decided to implement such a four-day week and, luckily, share the promising results.

👉 Experts also say that the 9-5 model is now outdated and the pandemic proved it.

There’s a common practice of taking Fridays free to extend the weekend. That’s why most of the companies introduce a Monday-Thursday four-day workweek.

👉 One of the most extended four day workweek experiments was carried out in Iceland between 2015 and 2019. Companies from various industries (even hospitals or preschools) allowed their employees to work shorter hours for the same amount of money, e.g., a Reikavik City Council took part in the trial.

Experts say the trial’s results on employees’ engagement and productivity are promising. Four day work week statistics included changes in government services, e.g., a higher percentage of closed cases per month increased.

Other countries also supported this trend, e.g., New Zealand (Perpetual Guardian, Unilever cases) and Spain.

How to be proactive as a specialist graphic

👍 What are the benefits of a four day work week?

💚 Longer weekends

The most obvious benefit of working only four days a week is more free time. Whether you work eight-hour days or more, the perspective of an extra free day is super tempting.

Longer weekend means extra hours that can be spent for various activities:

  • a trip – people often resign from going somewhere because they consider a two-day weekend too short for the effort. An extra day means extra time for commuting and then traveling or performing various outdoor activities (hint: consider city break offers on the best flight deals websites),
  • chilling up with family or friends – do as you wish, go outside or spend the evening just lying on the couch and watching your favorite show,
  • sleep – hard work often goes together with sleep deprivation that causes serious problems to your mental and physical health. Having a free Friday means you can spend some more time in bed in the morning and don’t have to rush,
  • household chores – let’s face it, sometimes the house needs a deep cleaning that takes more than 2 days. That’s why spending the extra free day on organizing the closet or doing the ironing can be a good idea – but occasionally, unless you’re cleaning up freak 😉

👉 Read more about how working long hours affects your health.

💚 Increased efficiency and productivity

Working a shortened work week means employees can spend more time relaxing. A relaxed employee has a clear mind, gets distracted less easily, and has fewer problems focusing on work.

Based on the Microsoft Japan example, the four-day workweek brings promising results on increasing employees’ productivity. In 2019, during the summer holiday, the company paid their employees the same salary for fewer hours worked. They also shortened half of the meetings, from 60 to 30 minutes.

The experiment resulted in a 40% increase in productivity, significantly lowering operating costs such as paper and electricity consumption.

👉 Read our article on how many hours you should work a day.

💚 Helps save money for commuting

Slowly but steadily, employees come back to their offices after working remotely for more than a year. Companies also introduce hybrid work models that allow workers to perform their duties from home and the office during the work week.

This way, time and money can be saved instead of wasted on commuting to work.

And a four day week and flexible work arrangements mean even more savings because it eliminates 20% of weekly commuting. Worth mentioning that it was one of the most often chosen perks of remote work in our Remote Work Report.

It reduces the stress the employees feel while commuting and is good for the environment because it lowers gas emissions and electricity production.

💚 Prevents job burnout

People who work for more than eight hours per week are struggling with a better work-life balance. Working too much affects mental health negatively, and the consequences can be seen worse overall well-being. It also causes problems with physical health caused by the higher stress levels.

Such behavior leads straight to less job satisfaction and employee engagement. Imagine you’re in such a situation – will you be able to put 100% effort into your work? I think no one can.

That’s why a four day work week can be a remedy for job burnout. It results in a three-day weekend, can greatly support a healthier work style, and helps maintain the accurate work-life balance. Working only four days and the promise of free Friday makes employees well-rested.

It affects both physical and mental health positively. They’re less vulnerable to stressful situations and pay more attention to their responsibilities. Also, having less time to fulfill the duties in only four days brings more focus, which results in avoiding distractions.

Tired man

👎 Cons of a four day work week

😞 It doesn’t suit all the business models

Not every industry can afford to switch to a different business model so easily. Many companies require 24/7 presence, so giving the employees one more day off can result in problems with shift scheduling.

😞 Less time to fulfill the duties

4 days on 3 days off work schedule means one day off more; however, not every employee can be satisfied. Taking one eight-hour day from the work week may be stressful for those who need some extra time to deliver the results of their work or participate in complex projects.

In the end, they’ll be working the same time as in five days a week schedule or overtime and won’t receive any tangible benefits.

😞 High costs for businesses

Many employers can worry that the employees won’t have enough time to fulfill their duties if they introduce a 4 day work week.

Sure, a shorter work week is highly beneficial for employees, but the possible delays in projects can bring a high negative outcome to the business in the end.

😞 False expectations

A promise of one free day more in four-day work weeks is tempting; however, the results may vary depending on how the company will implement it. Research shows that besides the idea of four day weeks, employees often work a full 40 hours per week, which means 10 hours a day (like in the Uniqlo case mentioned above).

Sure, some people prefer to work more in return for a long weekend – but at what cost?

We can’t forget that doing overtime constantly leads straight to fatigue and job burnout. Employees can be more productive at the beginning of the trial, but slowly they’ll become less focused on their responsibilities, which results in an even higher need to rest.

😞 Negative impact on customer satisfaction

Many industries require their employees to be accessible 24/7. Of course, this model assumes shift planning that ensures constant workforce accessibility.

Implementing a shorter workweek in such businesses can negatively affect the way customers access the services. Poor customer satisfaction means less money, so let’s ask ourselves if such practice makes sense?

😞 Inefficient workforce management

However, a 4 day work week, if implemented correctly, is highly appreciated by the employees, managers can occur problems with creating new schedules. Sure, productive workers are beneficial for businesses, but a shorter workweek can reduce workload.

In the end, taking one day from a five days week may turn out to be a spectacular failure.

Difficulties in creating alternative schedules may also lead to overtime and higher stress level. Employees may struggle with keeping up to date with changes, especially in their free days. Who wants to think about the work in their free day?

🤔 Is there an alternative to a four day workweek?

As you can see, there are as many pros as cons of 4 day work week. Longer weekends make employees more productive and focused on their work, but if the shorter work week doesn’t suit the business model, it’ll be hard to ensure the company’s steady performance, like in a usual five-day one.

That’s why instead of introducing 4 day work week, businesses can leave the five-day one but shorten the hours worked.

Such an approach should reduce the risk of problems with workforce scheduling that result in, e.g., lower customer satisfaction. Working, e.g., 6 hours per day, still will be beneficial for maintaining a healthy work-life balance but won’t negatively affect the company’s outcome.

However, all the changes should be carefully considered and discussed with the team.

If you decide to give a shortened work week a try, don’t forget to make sure the working hours are tracked correctly.

Sign up for a free TimeCamp account and forget about logging hours manually!

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