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The good and the bad: A closer look at the 4-day work week

In many businesses around the globe, a new approach towards work has entered the stage: working only four instead of five days a week should improve both companies’ outputs and employees' job satisfaction and wellbeing. But is that really true? Click here to find out whether the trend of reduced-hour weeks holds true.
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4 day work week

Working from Monday to Thursday and enjoying a 3-day weekend has become a thing in recent years. Many businesses are starting to actively evaluate this option, and there are more and more employees who want to have greater time to take care of their personal matters, rest and enjoy their private life

Many of them are leveraging their increasing negotiating power to ask for a reduced-hour working week. But how can such a model work out, and is it worth the trend?
We’ve looked at both the ups and downs of working four days a week, so if ​​ want to know if this could be an option for you, read more on this topic here in this article.

How does a 4-day work week look like?

A 4-day work week is a work schedule where employees work for 4 days each week and have 3 days off. This schedule is typical for businesses in which employees work shifts, such as factories or hospitals. 

However, some companies that do not require workers to come in on shifts, have introduced the 4-day work week model too. The exact way their weekly schedule is designed varies a lot depending on the industry and company, so there’s no universal answer to this question

However, typically it means working four days in a row and having three days off, e.g. working Monday-Thursday or Tuesday-Friday. Of course, there are other combinations too, like splitting up the working week by having Wednesday off. Often, it’s the individual employee who negotiates a 4-day week for themselves. So in the end, it all depends on how they come to terms with their employer, or whether there are company-wide rules.

What’s the benefit of working only four days a week?

There are a few pros and cons to having a 4-day work week – and that goes both for businesses and for employees! They’re as multifaceted as the topic itself, so we’ve summed them up for you below.

Benefit #1: Greater work-life balance

Employees have more time to enjoy hobbies and interests outside of work, or to spend with family and friends

This is clearly one of the biggest advantages that a reduced-hour week provides to employees. 

The extra day tops up their weekend by 50% while it only amounts to 20% of the work week. Traditional 2-day weekends often leave us with little time for actual recreation given all the errands we might have to complete, and the social activities we might want to pursue. Having one more day off makes it easier to enjoy your weekend to the fullest.

Benefit #2: Better health

This, in turn, would at best lead to a decrease in work-related stress and a general improvement in employees’ health, reducing mental health issues and increasing employees’ overall happiness. 

According to a study conducted by Henley Business School, “78% of companies who offer a 4-day working week state their employees feel less stressed at work and 70% of employees think that working fewer days would improve their overall quality of life”.

As in general the startup culture can be very demanding not only in terms of working hours, but also due to the cultivation of a hustling environment and the intertwining of private and professional life, many startup employees run the risk of suffering from burnout because of that. So taking measures to avoid the risk of your employees falling into that trap could include considering an overall working hours reduction for the staff.

Benefit #3: Increase in job satisfaction and productivity

For companies, this is clearly one of the largest benefits of introducing a 4-day work week. Multiple studies have shown that employees work more efficiently when they work shorter hours

This is commonly referred to as Parkinson’s Law: “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.

Employees have more time to rest and recover outside of work which in turn may lead to better focus and concentration, as well as an increase in motivation.

For example, Microsoft Japan experimented with a 4-day working week which led to a productivity increase of 40%. Now that is something most companies want!

Benefit #4: It saves costs + it’s better for the environment 

Fewer journeys to and from the office reduce overall traffic and congestion during the work week since there would be fewer people commuting. Since you’d keep your lights off 20% of the time, this improves your company’s carbon footprint too. And since they’d only be open four days a week, companies can save on costs such as electricity bills, office space, and utilities. 

According to another study published by Henley Business School, more than half of business leaders of companies who have introduced a reduced-hour working week state that this has helped them save costs

Benefit #5: It helps companies attract and retain talents 

A key to retaining your company’s most talented heads includes watching out for their overall physical and mental health. As already explained earlier, introducing a 4-day week might seal the deal for many since it reduces the risk of becoming sick or suffering from burnout. 

In their study asking more than 10,000 employees about their job and well-being situation, Gallup found the lowest level of job burnout in employees who worked a 4-day week.

However, offering your employees to work only four days a week is also one of the most attractive assets you may be able to provide when seeking the best talents on the job market.

 A recent study published by ZipRecruiter shows that 4-day work week job listings get 15% more applicants on average when compared to those with a 5-day work week.

This goes along with findings from Harvard Business Review stating that flexible working hours and additional vacation are two of the three most desired work benefits for employees and job seekers.

… But after all of that gushing, what’s with the downsides to working four days a week?

Since (almost?) everything in life has two sides to every story, this, of course, also goes for reduced-hour weeks. 

Disadvantage #1: Potentially increased stress levels

Although mentioned as a benefit above, it might also turn into a downside for employees in some cases. This could happen if employees feel like they need to cram more work into fewer days, which leads to longer hours and less rest between the working days. 

To avoid this, companies need to establish a plan of how to reduce time-killers such as making meetings shorter and more productive i.e. by making use of scrum techniques

Additionally, the idea of introducing a 4-day working week should not mean including 40 hours into four days instead of five, but making adjustments to improve overall efficiency and using that to increase productivity whilst reducing hours and still keeping the average 8h a day working time. 

Disadvantage #2: A 4-day work week is team- and industry-specific

Some businesses may find it difficult to cover all their needs with only four days of operation and might not be able to get as much work done in 4 days as they could in 5 days. 

For example, this goes for companies offering customer support who need to be there for their clients Monday through Friday. To overcome this challenge, businesses may consider dividing staff into two groups where one half takes off Fridays and the other one takes off Mondays. In that way, coverage for customers can still be provided all five days of the working week. 

Nevertheless, the need to have your team available for customers might limit businesses’ ability to compress the working week.

Disadvantage #3: The danger of salary decreases and layoffs

Last but not least, there might be businesses who are not able to afford to pay their employees for the 5th day off, which in turn could lead to downsizing or an overall decrease in company wages. This is a crucial factor for companies and should not be dismissed when considering a shift toward a 4-day work week. 

Introducing the 4-day working week: practice examples 

Examples of companies who have introduced the 4-day work week include fintech startups Bitpanda and Bolt, career and video platform Whatchado, crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, creative services platform BunnyStudio, and many more. 

Often, companies start with a limited-time experiment to try out how the 4-day week would actually work out, before implementing it fully. The list of companies offering such a weekly hourly model is growing, which shows that there’s growing acceptance of this shift among both employers and employees.

Conclusion

Introducing a 4-day working week is a big decision that can’t be taken lightly. It is becoming a greater trend nowadays and is seen to be a very attractive factor for many job applicants

Whether or not your business should consider switching its hourly working time very much depends on your industry and the people working for the company. 

It’s a big change for everyone involved after all, so any consideration in that direction should be closely discussed with staff to avoid frustration or misunderstandings, to be sure everyone’s on the same page and the overall mood is pro-change. 

If you’re an employee seeking to ask for a reduction of your weekly hours, talk to your manager or boss about it and be sure you have all the pros and cons as well as your demands well thought through. As a job applicant looking for 4-day work week offers, use our job platform to find the right calling for you! 

Additionally, you may want to check out this article to make the best of our platform for your job search. Good luck!

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