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The Four-Day Workweek: What are the Advantages?

In September of 1926, Henry Ford introduced the five-day workweek to his employees. This was a new idea that Ford implemented to give his employees more time for leisure. His thought was that more leisure time would give his employees more time to shop, travel and vacation.

Ford knew that in order for his employees to do these things, they would rely more on transportation than ever before – creating a much higher demand for his cars.

While current employers aren’t focusing on selling cars to their employees, they are trying to find new ways to attract and retain employees. One of those ways includes a four-day workweek. But what does a four-day workweek look like? Has it been successful in the past?

What does the four-day workweek look like?

The four-day workweek can be structured in several different ways. Before deciding on how to structure the four-day workweek, employers must first gauge whether their workweek should be shortened to 32 hours or should remain at 40 hours.

Shortened Workweek: The shortened workweek consists of four 8-hour workdays. Companies that go this route still expect the same level of productivity that their employees produced in a 40-hour workweek.

Condensed Workweek: The condensed workweek consists of four 10-hour workdays. For many companies, shortening the amount of hours in a workweek is not possible. The condensed workweek provides those companies with several different options when trialing a four-day workweek.

61 companies in the UK piloted a four-day workweek between June and December of 2022. Between the 61 companies, Autonomy found five different types of four-day workweeks being trialed. Here are the five types of workweeks that were piloted:

  1. Fifth-day stoppage – The company is closed for one additional day per week. In many cases, companies choose Friday for their additional day off.
  2. Staggered – Staff would take alternating days off. In this example, employees could be grouped with people that they work with directly. One group of employees would get Monday off while the other group of employees would get Friday off.
  3. Decentralized – Different departments operate on different patterns. This was common in companies whose departments had highly contrasting functions and challenges.
  4. Annualized – Staff works an average of 32 hours per week over the course of a year. This could be beneficial for companies who experience a busy season each year.
  5. Conditional – Employees are entitled to the four-day workweek if they meet their performance goals. In this example, KPIs would be agreed on beforehand to create clear expectations.

The advantages of a four-day workweek

  1. Improved work-life balance for employees

The work-life balance of employees is important for employees and businesses alike. From a business’s perspective, prioritizing an employee’s mental and physical well-being decreases the chance of burnout and increases retention rates. An extra day off every week provides employees extra time to rest and reset for the new week.  

  1. Downtime is reduced

Switching to a four-day workweek allows employees to schedule doctor’s appointments and personal matters on their extra day off. A study by the Henley Business School found that employee sickness had been reduced after switching to a four-day workweek.

  1. Cost savings

A four-day workweek cuts the time spent commuting to work by 20%.  This helps employees save money on gas, as well as the wear and tear on their vehicles. Assuming productivity levels don’t drop, businesses can save money on utility bills by switching to a four-day workweek.

The disadvantages of a four-day workweek

  1. Customer satisfaction

While a four-day workweek does improve employee morale and company culture, it can have a negative effect on customer satisfaction. Chatbots and AI may be great tools, but customers still expect the same level of service as they receive from humans.

  1. Not everyone can participate

Whether or not your company can establish a four-day workweek may depend on the industry that you are in. It also may depend on what department you work in. Before implementing a four-day workweek, it is important to make sure that every employee in your company is able to participate.

  1. Burnout for high performers

High performers typically go above and beyond in their roles. This can include taking on tasks of other employees who cannot get their work done on time. When switching to a four-day workweek, it is crucial that every employee carries their weight to avoid burnout among employees.