In a world where the boundaries between work and life are becoming increasingly blurred, the idea of a 4-day workweek has received a lot of buzz. It promises an enticing proposition: more time for leisure, reduced stress, and improved work-life balance.
The idea of a 4-day workweek gained traction through a combination of historical labor movements, societal changes, and technological advancements. Plus, a growing body of research supports the benefits of reduced working hours.
Our own poll shows that the majority of employees (86%) are willing to give it a try.
As companies and individuals continue to explore this model, it is likely to remain a topic of discussion and experimentation in the modern workplace. But before you buy in and make big changes, it’s important to take a closer look at how practical and sustainable this model really is.
Is the four-day workweek the revolutionary solution we’ve all been waiting for? Or is it merely a passing trend?
To understand its potential, let’s delve into the experiences and insights of real companies that have adopted this unconventional approach to work.
The promise of the 4-day workweek
First, let’s look at why this movement is growing in popularity. From a business perspective, the benefits of a four-day workweek are multifaceted and can be game-changers for companies willing to embrace this paradigm shift.
It promises, among other things:
- Higher morale. A shorter workweek provides employees with more personal time, creating a better work-life balance. Which translates into more employee satisfaction.
- Boosted productivity. More time to recharge means employees are more focused and engaged when they get back to work.
- Better recruitment and retention. A 4-day workweek can be a powerful recruiting tool, attracting top talent and improving retention rates. The boost in morale also leads to higher motivation and commitment.
- Increased wellness. Perhaps most importantly, shortened work hours impact employee health. Many companies report a decrease in absenteeism and burnout. This is obviously better for your team. And it can lower healthcare costs and the burden of workforce turnover.
A 4-day workweek also promotes the ideal of a more efficient and happier workforce—and a positive impact on your company’s bottom line.
But is that how it plays out?
Four-day workweek success stories
To answer this question, let’s look at some real-world experiences with a shortened workweek.
Success stories: 4 Day Work Week Global
Nonprofit 4 Day Work Week Global has the goal of reshaping the way companies think about work. They help leaders focus on productivity and output rather than hours by running 4-day workweek pilot programs.
Here are some of the results the organization’s site reports from participating organizations:
- 54% report increased productivity in a four-day workweek
- 68% say they saw a decrease in employee burnout
- 36% had an increase in annual revenue
- 42% saw a decrease in employee turnover
So, what does a 4-day workweek look like in practice? Let’s take a look at a case study from a specific company.
Case study: Buffer
Social media software company Buffer decided to temporarily move to a four-day workweek in 2020. The idea was to try it for a month to give strained employees a break during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the time, CEO and co-founder Joel Gascoigne stated that the move was about “Well-being, mental health, and placing us as humans and our families first.”
The plan was to monitor the results. Then to decide whether to extend the model for another month or return to their standard workweek.
Over a year later, Buffer shared details of their experience and why they continued with the working model. They cited positive results, including:
- 91% of the team reported increased happiness and productivity
- 84% of employees were able to get all of their work done in the four days
It’s important to note that these changes weren’t just a result of adopting the model wholesale. As it moved through the experiment, the company adapted the model to fit employee needs.
Most of the team, 73%, adopted the four-day workweek (or chose to work five shorter days). But the remaining 27% worked slightly longer hours to keep work moving smoothly and prevent overload during shortened hours. Most of these work an extra half day at the end of the week to catch up on tasks.
The company says keeping their team feeling connected is a challenge with the model. They cut back on interactive team bonding activities, and engagement scores have decreased since before the move.
These scores may be a result of other contributors as well. Things like team turnover or external factors.
Buffer will continue to monitor the scores and work on ways to optimize the employee experience.
When a four-day week doesn’t work
While the kinds of positive results mentioned above are making headlines, not every company experiences them. Buffer speaks positively about their experience but admits they’ve experienced a few challenges with the model. And they’re not alone.
While 95% of companies that worked with 4 Day Work Week Global are staying with their new schedule, some felt the concept failed them.
They report issues like:
- Employees feeling more pressure and exhaustion trying to get all their work into four days
- Inability to continue paying employees during the time off
- Extra hiring costs in getting enough workers to be as productive in four days as in five
Implementing a four-day workweek can be challenging for a number of reasons.
Depending on your industry, it may be impossible to shut down production or leave clients without critical support for a day. And if you can’t eliminate distractions like extra meetings, you may just be adding to your employees’ stress levels.
A shorter week might also remove some flexibility for employees working remotely. When they lose a day to work toward their deadlines and meet with distributed managers and coworkers, they may feel less productive rather than more.
Preparing for flexibility in the world of work
The key to finding the right work model is to keep in mind that what employees want is a more flexible way of working. And better work/life balance.
That may mean a four-day week. Or it may mean remote or hybrid work options. Or some other work model altogether.
Whatever path you take, it’s important to make sure your leadership and team managers have the skills to successfully transition. They need to be able to support a more flexible work model that gives employees better autonomy and ownership of their schedule. As a business owner, you can look into incorporating an employee scheduling app to help you create optimal schedules for your teams.
Make sure as you build out your learning and development strategy that you provide those skills. That might mean including courses and content on topics like:
- Foundational leadership skills
- Virtual communication
- Facilitating employee wellbeing
- Productivity and time management
Be open to exploring your options
The 4-day workweek, like any other model, is a tool. It can improve employee work-life balance and productivity. But it’s not a universal solution.
As you plan your workplace going forward, remember to find a balance between innovation and evaluation. Not every new work model fits every organization. Before fully embracing one, consider your workload, team dynamics, and the nature of your work.
By staying open to exploration and rigorous assessment, you can create a model that works for individuals and your organization. Ensuring your company and your employees thrive in the evolving world of work.