The Case for a 4-Day WorkWeek
A four-day workweek?
It sort of sounds like a pipe dream for most unless you freelance and are self-employed. Traditionally we have been accustomed to the rat race of Monday to Friday, with frantic weekends getting chores done. Taking kids to extracurricular events and sports. The dreaded weekend grocery shop when the rest of the town or city is trying to do the same thing.
Interesting that Spain was one of the first European countries to trial a small nationwide 4-day work week in 2021 once it was put forward in 2019 well before pandemic exhaustion set in.
I can tell you firsthand that as a new resident in Spain, it was an eye-opener to suddenly have virtually nothing open on Sundays except for restaurants, cafes, and bars. With a husband who has the vehicle for work Mon-Friday working long hours, a trip to a Superstore, IKEA, and just about everything that wasn’t within walking distance (I haven’t broached public buses yet) meant Saturday was The Day to get anything done.
And I’ll be honest, said husband was much less keen on making Saturday a ‘chore day’ even when there wasn’t much choice about when to do our running around. Next thing you know it’s Sunday and like many people, they can often start fretting about work and it’s less than relaxing.
I’d say an extra day off on a Monday or Friday would work as a treat in businesses where this seems feasible. And just about any business can make it happen, once you get your board on board.
Why a 4 day work week appeals
Trials have also happened in Japan, the US, Denmark, New Zealand, the UK, and Canada. I’m sure there are more countries that have or will soon follow.
For the reasons mentioned above, it’s already incredibly appealing. But the real kicker here is that it’s working 20% fewer hours for the same amount of pay. Some companies spread the hours across employees for slightly longer workdays (a compressed work week), but having the three days off allows for a real recharge. Others have hired extra people to cover the hours. A true 4-day work week entails reduced hours for the same amount of pay.
With remote working possible, hours worked from home or even while on trains have been included in totals for employee hours, like the Danish town of Odsherred whose municipal government employees work Monday to Thursday.
Companies expect the same level of output and productivity. And when employees are feeling less burned out, less exhausted, with newfound flexibility the companies discovered a whole host of benefits.
Will companies stick with it?
What has been overwhelmingly positive about these trials is that employee satisfaction increases, creativity increases, output remains the same or higher than before, and these companies become extremely attractive to new recruitment prospects.
Companies that were spending an enormous amount of funds on recruitment processes have now been inundated by quality talent looking for this work/life balance.
Another positive? Absenteeism went down by more than 30% on average in these trials. This along with reduced recruitment costs (and in some trials zero staff opting to leave the company) has produced some very interesting food for thought on why the 4-day work week just might become the way forward.
In almost every case, companies who participated in a trial said they would not be going back to a five-day week.
Are there disadvantages to a 4-day work week?
The first hurdle is getting an agreement to make the change to a 4-day week, but also to ensure that the right culture and infrastructure are in place to enable it to happen.
According to changerecruitmentgroup.com, while there are many positives, there are a few cons to consider.
In some cases, customer satisfaction was lower, particularly if the business was outright closed for a third day.
In other cases, employees were sold the idea of a 4-day work week but instead had compressed hours. So they were doing the same hours but had 4 extra long days. This format of exchange for having three full days off did not yield the same benefits in trials.
The trials have shown that the positives occur when hours are reduced and employees work 4 x 7-hour workdays instead of 5.
It certainly seems like the global workforce is ready for a change in the way we work. Companies who ignore this trend may eventually find themselves on the back foot when it comes to attracting the next generation of employees who will increasingly be able to source a job that does allow for a 4-day work week.
It’s gaining traction and looks like it might be here to stay.
[Statistics ref: https://time.com/5948677/four-day-work-week-spain/]