Burnout has increased since the pandemic, with research finding that 67% of people experienced burnout more since the pandemic. Additionally, organizations are still struggling with employee retention and the Great Resignation. Employers are desperately seeking strategies to boost employee engagement and ensure work-life balance. One strategy that could change the future of work is the 4-day workweek. There are a variety of methods to implement 4-day workweeks. Here are three popular models:
- reducing workweeks from 40 hours to 32 hours (with employees working four days)
- having employees work 4 days a week for 40 hours (or as long as they need to complete job duties)
- running a 4-day workweek trial
This change, whether in a pilot program or permanent, is complicated to implement. Before dedicating time and resources to this strategy, employers must determine whether it makes sense for their organization. MP’s HR experts share what every organization needs to consider when determining if the 4-day workweek is optimal for them.
The Four Day Work Week: 6 Important Considerations
1. It has a track record of success.
Four-day workweeks have been implemented and studied around the world. Companies in Japan, the UK, the US, New Zealand, Russia, and more, are testing this tactic—and reporting success. Some examples include:
- Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand trust management company, reported a 20% gain in productivity and a 45% boost in employee work-life balance.
- Microsoft Japan reported a 40% productivity boost and savings in other operations costs, including 23% lower electricity bills and employees printing 60% fewer pages during the trial.
- In 2022, 38 US and 70 UK companies signed up to run a trial of the 4-day workweek with the support of 4 Day Week Global (a nonprofit associated with the University of Oxford).
2. It improves employee engagement and retention– and reduces burnout.
The Great Resignation has touched almost every employer in the last two years. The 4-day workweek is an effective tool for organizations to improve their team’s work-life balance and happiness at work. It’s a powerful way to give employees back flexibility in their schedules, especially if the nature of their industry or job doesn’t allow for it. For example, employers in the restaurant industry have been able to use the 4-day workweek to give employees back more autonomy over their schedules. This tactic also works for any other field or roles focused on responsive customer service. Employers need to create overlapping 4-day shifts to ensure there are always enough employees ready to complete the work.
3. It improves productivity.
Through practice and research, employers have seen a substantial boost in productivity from the 4-day workweek. This effect occurs even when employees work fewer weekly hours (such as 32 instead of 40). The productivity boost occurs because workers are healthier and feel better rested after a 4-day workweek. As a result, they come to work refreshed and ready to meet—and often exceed—their goals. Another reason employees are more productive is because they’re happier. A study by the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School has proven that happy employees produce more and better work. In their 2019 study, happy employees made sales at a 13% higher rate, worked faster, and made more calls per hour than their unhappy coworkers.
4. It supports gender equality.
Research has shown that the 4-day workweek is especially helpful to women in the workplace. Frequently, women have to take more time off for caregiving activities. Gender gaps in PTO and performance are narrowed when women have an extra day in their week to spend on these activities. Of course, men are also able to use this time to help more with their families. The overall impact of the 4-day workweek is powerful for gender equality– in the workplace and outside of it.
5. It works better if your industry is compatible.
The shorter workweek has had more success in certain industries. Tech lends itself well to this format. So do most white-collar industries with an in-office or remote environment. The less responsive employees must be for customer service inquiries, the more effective a 4-day workweek will be. Of course, employers that must be responsive to customer service inquiries are still able to implement the 4-day workweek. They just have to implement creative solutions, such as staggered schedules.
6. This tactic fails if the company culture isn’t strong.
Employers who tried the 4-day workweek and didn’t find success often had a few things in common. Frequently:
- managers didn’t trust employees
- employees were not highly engaged or motivated
- company culture was too focused on unrealistic outputs
When companies aren’t able to balance workloads, or employees and managers don’t communicate well, a shorter workweek exacerbates these issues. With an unbalanced workload, employees become more stressed (and less engaged and likelier to leave). This is because they now must complete unrealistic amounts of work in a shorter time period. Regarding communication and trust, these deficiencies only become more strained as employees and managers have less time to meet and connect.
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