The 4-Day Work Week: A Game-Changer for Modern Workplaces

  • Ola Rybacka
  • July 12, 2024
  • 8 min read

A few years ago, the concept of a 4-day work week seemed to be a thing of a distant future. It was perceived as a privilege not everyone could have. Something only a few could enjoy.

However, due to the lockdown, perspectives have shifted. While it still stirs some controversies, it seems that the idea of a shorter week is becoming a norm in the contemporary workplace.

The basis of the four-day workweek is working fewer hours for the same money. While the idea of working less is nice, not everybody realizes and understands its meaning for companies and their employees. Let’s dig in to find out how to prepare your business for the four-day workweeks.

🤔 What’s a 4 day work week?

The basic assumption of a four-day workweek is that employees fulfill their duties in a shorter amount of time, instead of the usual five-day workweek, and receive 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. But 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.

How companies are successfully implementing shorter workweeks

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👉 Experts also say that the 9-5 model is now outdated and the pandemic proved it.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

Success Stories: How Reduced Hours Are Enhancing Performance

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.

A longer weekend means extra hours that can be spent on various activities such as trips, chilling out with family or friends, sleep (hard work often goes together with sleep deprivation, which can cause serious problems for your mental and physical health), household chores, personal time, and hobbies.

Remember that taking time off doesn’t mean you’re lazy. Leisure and rest are necessary for our well-being. They help to restore the cognitive and physical functions of our bodies. And the mental and physical health are crucial for increased productivity.

👉 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, is less prone to distractions, and focuses on work more easily.

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 are coming back to offices after working remotely or more than a year. Companies are increasingly adopting hybrid work models, enabling employees to split their workweek between home and office.

This approach saves both time and money that would otherwise be spent on traveling to and from work as it eliminates 20% of weekly commuting. It’s 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 achieving a better work-life balance. Working too much affects mental health negatively, and the consequences can lead to worse well-being. It also causes problems with physical health caused by the higher stress levels.

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

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

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.

It’s a good idea to implement six-month trials to check whether the 4-day week is suitable for your business.

😞 Less time to fulfill the duties

3 days of work mean one day off; however, not every employee can be satisfied with this type of schedule. 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 a five-day-a-week schedule or taking overtime and will not receive any tangible benefits.

😞 High costs for businesses

Many employers worry that introducing a four-day work week will leave employees without enough time to fulfill their duties.

Sure, a shorter work week is highly beneficial for employees, but potential project delays can negatively impact the business.

😞 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, necessitating shift planning to ensure continuous workforce availability.

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 a practice makes sense.

😞 Inefficient workforce management

Nevertheless, a 4-day work week, if implemented correctly, is highly appreciated by the employees. Managers, on the other hand, can encounter 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-day 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 on their free days. Who wants to think about the work in their free day?

Transforming into 4-day workweek with time tracking

So far, time tracking has been perceived as a productivity booster. But in view of the fact the standardized work hours change, the issue begs the question—do we need time tracking?

If people can reorganize themselves into working more in less time, what’s the sense of monitoring work hours in the long run? 8 hours of work for 4 days a week—what’s more to that? Does it mean time tracking is heading toward extinction?

But the time tracking is key here. It’s said that you can’t manage what you can’t measure. And TimeCamp CEO, Kamil Rudnicki, said that “When you have hard data on paper, you make informed decisions about how to restructure business processes. Reorganizing working habits is easier when there are hard numbers on the table.

Time tracking provides deep data on work time. Take a look at how TimeCamp, a free time tracking software, can help you transform your business:

  • Accurate time tracking of work hours and all activities (standard work hours, overtime, meetings, breaks, work and non-work related tasks, etc.).
  • Time budgeting—record time spent on projects and measure project profitability throughout estimated timeframes.
  • Billable time tracking so you’re not losing money on non-work related tasks.
  • Accurate timesheets help to monitor the clock-in/out times of your employees.
  • Attendance management to oversee the workload of your team for better work distribution.
  • Simple time tracking app with a one-click start/stop timer so you can focus on work.

This data can help your business understand work patterns and business processes. That allows you to easily spot bottlenecks and minimize distractions so your employees can have extra day off

On the other hand, we need to remember that measuring work only by numbers, statistics, and data is not the ultimate way to achieving higher outcomes. Focusing solely on figures can lead to neglecting qualitative aspects, overlooking the human element, and limiting creativity.

🤔 Is there an alternative to a four-day workweek?

The 4 day workweek has as many pros as cons. 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 6 hours per day will still be beneficial for maintaining a healthy work-life balance but won’t negatively affect the company’s outcome.

You can also choose from other alternatives such as flexible work schedules, remote or hybrid work, job sharing or part-time work, sabbatical or extended leaves. Many employees like to have an option to choose wat suits them the most.

Remember that before you make the change permanent, consider it carefully and discuss 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.

What’s the future of the 32-hour and 4-day workweek?

Daniela D’Amato, the Operations Manager at Creative Words, a language service company based in Genoa, Italy says that “Empowering teams to find smart ways to work less boosts creativity. At Creative Words, the short work week announcement spurred teams and individuals to discover their paths to make this happen, sparking unforeseen innovation. Our already creative team reached new heights.”

Will corporate America adopt the 4-day work schedule? Already third of America’s companies are considering the change and the revolution is closer than we think.

Data from registered work hours provides valuable insights, enabling businesses to accurately understand their time usage rather than relying on rough estimates.

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