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Four-Day Work Week Gaining Traction

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A number of studies and reviews have recently been published which look at the changes needed and the impact of shifting to a four-day work week. The consensus is that, while there are some challenges to be overcome, generally shifting to a four-day work week results in happier, more engaged staff with increased productivity.

Bryan Lufkin and Jessica Mudditt state in a BBC Worklife piece titled The Case for a Shorter Workweek that:

More than ever, workers want to work fewer hours, saying they can be just as effective in less time – and happier, too.

Working fewer hours leads to happier, healthier, more engaged workforces.

Jack Kelly points out in a Forbes article that prior to 2020, you would have thought I was a fool for saying that nearly every white-collar professional would be working from home, yet today we have accepted this is the norm and people in most organizations will continue working from home at least some of the time post-pandemic. He states that the future of work will be five-hour days, a four-day workweek and flexible staggered schedules.

Change Recruitment Group discusses The Pros and Cons of a 4-Day Working Week and says:

Not only does a 4-day work week increase employee satisfaction, company commitment and teamwork, but it also decreases stress levels. Even better, reducing employees’ work schedules to a 4-day work week doesn’t harm their productivity or company output.

They list the benefits from a four-day workweek as:

  • Increased productivity
  • An equal workplace (particularly important for women with child-care responsibilities)
  • Better employee engagement
  • Smaller carbon footprint

The BBC article reports on studies where shifting to four-day work weeks showed that productivity remained the same, or even improved. The authors contend that a shift to a four-day work week can help overcome some of the current negatives in the working environment.

They make the point that a four-day work week is not about working longer days to fill a quota of hours,  but rather is a shift to working less hours without reducing pay and benefits.

A shorter workweek could take various forms. There’s the four-day week, where you reduce your working hours by 20%. There are different models; everyone at a company might take the same day off, or people chose the structure that works for them, like taking two afternoons off. Or you might just reduce the workweek by a certain number of hours, from 40 down to 36, for example. A commonality across all models is that you’re not cramming your previous work span into a shorter timeframe, like working 40 hours in four days; you are removing a portion of your total work time for the week. Most importantly, salaries remain the same.

The studies point to some challenges which need to be overcome, including:

  • Customer dissatisfaction - the need to stagger the work weeks so customer service does not stop for one day per week
  • It cannot work for every role in every industry, which may deepen inequalities already existing in the workplace

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) points out five steps that need to be considered when adopting a shorter workweek.

Summarizing the overall benefits of the shift to more flexible working, Kelly says:

This trend aligns with the changing demands of the workforce in a hot job market. The gig economy has made it more mainstream to work where and when you want. Remote, hybrid, flexible staggered hours, job sharing, four-day workweeks, five-hour days, hot desks and other initiatives are being tried out by companies to enhance employee happiness and retain talent. For many, having these options will provide for a healthier work-life balance. These trends will quickly accelerate as companies recognize it's a great, smart way to attract and retain workers

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