Complete Payroll Solutions Logo

The Pros and Cons of a 4-Day Work Week (& More Facts for Employers)

by Rayna Grenon on May 26, 2022 8:00:00 AM

While only 15% of US employers offer a 32-hour, 4-day work week, that figure is on the rise. From a global movement called the “4 Day Week Global program” to legislation proposed in  states like California that would move 3.6 million people to 4-day work weeks, the trend is gaining steam among employers and employees alike. Is a shorter work week right for your business?

To help you understand the pros and cons of this approach so you can decide if a 4-day work week is a fit for you, here we’ll discuss the benefits and drawbacks of a shorter week, examples of companies who have implemented one, and central components of a workplace policy if you choose to adopt a 4-day work week.

After reading this, you’ll be better prepared to decide if a 4-day work week is the best option for your business.

What is a 4-day work week?

While a 4-day work week could mean spreading out 40 hours over 4 days, giving workers longer, 10-hour shifts, that’s not what the current movement is about. Instead, it’s focused on a reduction in hours from the standard 40 over 5 days to 32 over 4 days. It’s important to note that with this approach, there is no reduction in pay; workers receive 100% of their pay for 80% of the time.

The idea behind the 4-day week is to focus less on how long people are at work and more on what’s being produced. Studies have shown that at some point, productivity decreases as the number of hours worked increases. In fact, companies who have embraced this approach have seen sustained or even increased productivity, despite working fewer hours.

What are the pros and cons of a shorter week?

As you evaluate whether a 4-day work week would be a good policy at your company, there are several advantages and disadvantages to the approach that you’ll want to consider first.

Pros

  • Increased morale: 92% of people support a shorter week, so you’ll likely boost employee satisfaction with a 4-day schedule.
  • Stronger recruitment position: You’ll be competitive in the war for talent in today’s competitive market since flexibility over when they work is among workers’ most common requests.
  • Enhanced productivity: Employees may get more done and the quality of work may be elevated, according to some experts.
  • Reduced employee stress: In other countries where 4-day work weeks have been implemented, employees report less stress and burnout because they have time to spend with their families or to pursue hobbies.
  • Cost savings: Some companies have reported savings in overhead costs like electricity and other utilities.

Cons

  • Scheduling issues: If you give employees the choice of which day to take off, rather than having a set day off for all staff, it can create scheduling challenges and add to your administrative burden.
  • Added stress: While many employees find a shorter week eases their stress, others may feel pressure to get more work done in less time.
  • Difficulty implementing: Changing to 4-day weeks involves a lot of tasks like changing schedules and policies and briefing workers about the change.
  • Customer impacts: A 4-day work week could result in delays in response times that frustrate customers and, ultimately, impact sales.
  • Inapplicability to all industries: The approach won’t work if your business requires a 24/7 presence or other scheduling that makes a 4-day work week impractical.

What companies have implemented a shorter week?

The majority of companies adopting 4-day work weeks are in sectors like technology, finance, and professional services. But there are some from other industries trying it as well, including manufacturing and hospitality. Some employers adopting this approach include:

  • Basecamp: The software company started a  32-hour week seasonally in 2008 and has maintained the schedule every summer since, from May through September.
  • Kickstarter: The company started a 4-day work week in April, giving employees every Friday off.
  • ThredUp: The online consignment and thrift store thredUP introduced a four-day workweek in 2021 and 88% of employees rated it a positive change.
  • The Wunderlust Group:  In 2020, the company shifted to a Tuesday through Friday schedule. The result? They’ve realized 99% growth year over year in annual recurring revenue, among other achievements.

How do I implement a 4-day work week?

If you decide to switch to a shorter week at your company, you’ll want to take several steps to ensure a seamless transition. Here are the basics you’ll need to address:

  1. Plan your week. Which days or hours should you take off? How can you prevent negative impacts to your customers? These are some of the questions you’ll need to consider as you develop your plan.
  2. Have a solid policy upfront and implement it consistently. Spell out the details of your plan and communicate it to all employees. Be aware that it’s essential to create a shorter work week that’s fair to everyone, from executive to frontline workers.
  3. Communicate. Be sure to communicate the plan to employees and explain how it will affect them. For example, stress that it won’t change their jobs or benefits, but may mean changes to internal processes or new tools that they’ll have to adopt.
  4. Set clear expectations. Ensure employees know that they are expected to maintain their workload. That also means you need to establish goals that are achievable in a shorter week and declutter their calendars by eliminating unnecessary meetings.
  5. Establish boundaries. Set boundaries for your team since it’s important that employees actually take the day off for the approach to work. And model them yourself. That means, for example, not sending emails on a Friday.
  6. Pilot first. Test your program during a shorter-term pilot such as 3 months. Then you can see how employees feel about the plan and make any necessary adjustments based on the effect on your business.
  7. Measure. Solicit employee feedback on your 4-day week. Using an employee survey is a good way to gauge satisfaction levels. And capture other metrics of success like the number of sick days during the pilot and productivity levels. For example, monitor the number of projects completed in a specific time period, like a month, compared to when workers had a 5-day week.

How to Best Implement a 4-day Work Week

There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding whether to implement 4-day work weeks. But if you’re trying to establish yourself as an employer of choice in the tight labor market, it could be just the benefit you need to attract and retain talent. For more ways to appeal to workers amid the great reshuffle or resignation, read our tips.

Subscribe

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

HR Cast