The Four-Day Workweek, What We Have Learned So Far
Updated: Feb 6
Across the globe, companies and organizations are beginning to trial a four-day workweek. Most of these trials are running for a 6-month period, with the possibility to extend based upon initial feedback and results. While it is still relatively early to draw conclusive results, some interesting benefits and drawbacks are emerging early on. Below is a brief summary of the pros and cons of a four-day workweek and how it may impact your organization.
Pro: Better Work-Life Balance
The workforce had been changing for nearly two decades prior to the pandemic with the rise of the internet, cell phones, and remote accessibility. As a result, management began to place more pressure on workers to remain productive and accountable. These pressures and technologies significantly blurred the lines of work-life balance and unplugging from the workday and office. The pandemic was the driving force that transformed this approach to work, physically and psychologically for many. Companies that are participating in a four-day workweek trial are reporting that employees are happier, healthier and remain as productive as working five days a week. For many employees, the four-day workweek trial has allowed them to regain some sense of work-life balance, alleviating the pre-pandemic pressures of “working harder” and affording them the time to disconnect. Providing employees with an extra day off, has allowed them to focus on new hobbies, provide care, maintain appointments and personal duties, but ultimately reduces the risk of burnout.
Con: Limited Meeting Availability
As with any type of scheduling change, meeting and availability is always impacted. From initial results, some companies are seeing conflicts when some teams work only Monday through Thursday and others Tuesday through Friday. Meetings and calls need to be prioritized and scheduled strategically throughout the week. However, in some cases this limited availability has caused employees to prioritize work more effectively and better manage their time. There is without doubt that cutting down the number of physical days in the workweek has created scheduling conflicts, but teams and employees have managed to navigate this obstacle with ease through virtual meetings and closer collaboration.
Pro: Attract and Retain Talent During Great Reshuffle
Part of this trial run of the four-day workweek has been to test whether or not it is an effective tool for recruiting and retaining talent. With talent shortage levels at an all-time high, attracting and hiring the best talent can seem impossible, so retaining your current talent is critical. During these trials, companies have found that employees are less likely to leave their organization (working only four days a week) for a new role or company where they are required to return to five work days. It’s proven an effective retention tool during the Great Reshuffle and even mitigated some instances of “Quiet Quitting.” From a recruiting perspective, the idea of a four-day workweek may be the one benefit missing from a candidate’s current employer and may be a deciding factor when considering a career move.
Con: A Four-Day Workweek Is Not Truly Flexible Work
One of the more interesting findings during the four-day workweek trials is the comparison to the rise of flexible work arrangements. Flexible work is defined as “Non-traditional working arrangements that take into account an individual’s personal needs, often involving some degree of working from home.” When it comes to a four-day workweek, mandating that all workers take Friday off (for example) is not truly flexible work. Flexible work is designed to allow for more leniency within the workweek schedule, where the focus and decisions are driven by an individual’s needs. For example, a working parent with a toddler at home, may prefer not to work on Tuesdays instead of Fridays, simply based on childcare requirements and scheduling. At the same time, another colleague may prefer working Monday through Friday to have a three day weekend. When considering a four-day workweek, mandating the same day off company-wide may not work for certain employees and may create even more imbalance for them.
Pro: Remain Productive Or Increase Productivity
One of the biggest concerns companies and organizations have about a four-day workweek is reduced productivity and loss of new business or customers. Thus far in these trials, the shortened number of days to get all work done has required employees to be more prompt, productive and focused. In some cases employees cited that the limited hours within the workweek gave them more structure to focus and complete work in a more efficient manner rather than ping-ponging from project to project and task to task. For the most part, these studies have shown that productivity remained the same or better, and customer relationships have not suffered as expected.
Con: May Not Be A Sustainable Policy Organization-wide
One of the downsides companies found when trialing a four-day workweek is that in some cases it is not a viable organization-wide policy. The four-day workweek has proven effective for white collar workers that work in a traditional office setting. But with supply chain issues and shortages still disrupting markets and industries, the four-day workweek is not a viable option for blue collar workers working in the field or operating machinery at plants, warehouses and more. Shutting operations down entirely or reducing output will only exacerbate supply chain issues spurred by the pandemic. A similar alternative to the four-day workweek in this case would be to provide more flexible working hours or job sharing. In reality, flexibility for these types of jobs is only possible if you have the necessary headcount and resources to sustain operations. Unfortunately, hiring for field-level roles has become even more difficult as the available talent in this pool continues to shrink every year.
What we are seeing from a recruiting and hiring perspective is that remote work, flexible working, a return to work-life balance and even the possibility of a four-day workweek, continue to drive job and candidate mobility. These types of benefits are creating enough of an incentive to influence a candidate’s decision of whether they choose to work for your organization or for your competitor.
About The Author
With over 10 years of experience in search and business operations, Julian is a highly diligent and efficient marketer and operations manager. He is a proven leader who combines creative thinking and strong communications with operational strategy, business development, recruitment operations, and digital marketing. Julian joined Chapel Hill Solutions to modernize the recruitment industry’s approach. He is passionate about creating a transparent and collaborative relationship with his clients.