- Thoughts about four-day work weeks are not new.
- Despite tremendous results, including increased productivity and cost savings, not everyone is keen to embrace them.
- There are some drawbacks, and four-day work weeks do not work for all types of businesses.
Predictions of shorter work weeks go back to the 1930s during the great depression. It was then when economist John Maynard already realized that efficient work method discoveries and implementations would continue, and more people would opt to work less and spend more time at home.
A compelling idea, the four-day work week is getting a lot of attention lately. Amazon, Microsoft, and Deloitte have tried it and Microsoft said that a trial run in Japan increased productivity by 40% and saved 23% in electricity costs.
The founder of Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand financial services company, experimented with the idea in 2018, and the results of their study proved that their employees were happier and profits increased.
Sana Marin, Prime Minister of Finland, also put forth the idea of a shorter work week as a future potential goal for her Social Democratic Party earlier this year.
The productivity study by Perpetual Guardian showed an increase of 5% in overall work satisfaction, a 7% decrease in stress, and an increase of 24% in employees who were successful in balancing work and their personal life. Therefore, one can safely say productivity is not influenced by the time spent at work, but attitude also plays a huge role.
Considering the pros
A four-day work week and its pros:
1. Cost reductions for everyone
Employers have fewer overhead costs. One example is saving on electricity, especially if everyone is out of the office on the same day of every week. Employees save on commuting and spending on food and drinks while at the office.
2. Boost in productivity
Employees manage their work time more efficiently and tend to take fewer breaks. They also spend less time on other pointless activities like browsing on the internet or their social media. Additionally, employees look for more productive ways to complete tasks.
3. Reducing the carbon footprint
Fewer people traveling to work means less use of public or private transport. The reduced demand from the office for electricity also decreases emissions. When the state of Utah implemented a four-day workweek in 2009, carbon emissions in the state were reduced by 12,000 metric tons annually.
4. Job satisfaction
Less work means less stress and further work-life balance. This leads to increased job satisfaction among employees, allows for better work engagement, increases inspiration, and drive. It has also been observed that employee turnover rates and nonattendance are reduced.
Considering the cons
Even as supporters find benefits to a four-day work week, detractors feel there are more viable ways to create a better work-life balance.
Here are some of the cons of a shorter work week:
1. Work requirements can’t be met
A four-day work week literally cuts away a whole day from work. Project timelines become more difficult to manage and require diligence and better time management. This can become costly for a business as was proven in a two-year trial in Sweden.
The 40-hour work week was slashed to 30 hours in a five-day work week there, and even though worker satisfaction increased considerably, it became too costly for businesses to sustain.
2. Impractical for some industries
A shorter work week is not a solution for all types of businesses because some require longer working hours and others a 24/7 presence of employees. In industries where sales are imperative to their success, one less day of work may mean that competitor businesses can get a stronger foothold.
3. Work hours are not always reduced
Some jobs require more time to complete, and a shorter work week might require that employees put in overtime to complete tasks. This potentially increases the expenses of a business but also negates the purpose of having a shorter work week for the employee.
However, sometimes workers do want to put in more hours and can’t because of the restrictions on work hours. A Dutch study revealed that 1.5 million people were prepared to work longer, but couldn’t.
4. Opportunities are decreased
Employees often need the extra day at work for networking opportunities with colleagues and industry peers. According to Laura Vanderkam, a time-management expert, optimization like introducing flexible work hours may be far better than cutting the work week.
Inevitable it may seem, but the four-day work week will depend more on the needs of each different type of business. However, those industries that feel it may work to their benefit should test it to measure the results before deciding.