What is a 4-Day Work Week?
The pandemic has completely transformed our work culture and introduced new ways of working. The world has collectively come to the realization that the traditional 9 to 5 in-office workday is not the only option out there to keep things running. Thus, flexible work arrangements are now more widely accepted. One of the most exciting and revolutionary working modes that has recently gained traction is the 4-day work week. Following the release of the results from the largest 4-day work week pilot in February 2023, multiple countries and companies are exploring this new model, aiming to create a more balanced and healthy working model that benefits both employees and businesses. Join us as we explore this exciting new world of work together. In this article, we will uncover:
- The different formats of the 4-day work week,
- The proven advantages it has brought to companies that have tried it,
- Potential challenges and reverse effects that may arise,
- And ultimately, whether the 4-day work week is suitable for everyone.
Variations on the 4-Day Work Week
At first glance, the concept of a 4-day work week may seem like a minor adjustment to the traditional 5-day work week, with one fewer day of work. However, this whole trend is about embracing flexibility and exploring new possibilities for work arrangements. Which also brings us to raise questions around pay and compensation. Will employees receive the same hourly rate as they did for a 40-hour work week, or will pay be adjusted to match the traditional work week? To better understand the variations and potential benefits of a 4-day work week, it’s important to break down the different models and explore how each one is organized.
4 x 8 hr days for 80% salary
This model is based on a traditional hourly-pay mindset and involves working 4 days a week with either Monday or Friday off for an extended weekend. Several companies, including Ecosia, operate on a 32-hour work week with a 20% salary cut. However, while this model provides a more extended rest period, some employees may feel like they are not working a real full-time paid job due to the pay reduction. Despite its drawbacks, this arrangement can work well for those who seek more work-life balance or want to pursue other interests outside of work.
4 x 8 hr days for 100% salary
Implementing a 32 hr week for a full salary is an exciting opportunity to test how shorter work weeks can impact employee productivity and satisfaction. Following this format, employees can work four days a week without compromising their full-time position perks. However, one concern for companies is whether collaborators can fully achieve their OKRs with fewer work days per week. It’s an interesting challenge that is definitely worth tackling for a better work-life balance.
4 x 9 hr to 10 hr days for 100% salary
Companies who use this model follow the 4/10 rule. Which involves cramming 36 hrs to 40 hrs of work into a 4-day period. Although this format respects the original concept of a 4-day work week, it does not lighten the workload and may lead to burnout. It could be a good arrangement for those who prefer to work an extra two hours per day to free up one day for leisure or other commitments.
30 hrs stretched over 5 days
While not strictly a 4-day work week, this model provides a certain level of flexibility that many workers appreciate. Some employees prefer having more free time during the day to pursue hobbies or spend time with family without feeling overwhelmed by work. The Netherlands is one country that has made this model possible, with workers having the right to go part-time in their job after one year of service at the same company. This has made the Netherlands the country with the shortest work week in the world, with an average of 29 hours per week.
4.5 day week
This arrangement offers the option of taking a half day off each week or starting late on Mondays and finishing early on Fridays. This allows employees to start their day at a slower pace easing the transition back into work mode. The 4.5 day week could ultimately lead to reduced stress levels and a better work-life balance for employees. The UAE has successfully implemented this model for all government workers by freeing half a day on Friday.
The Advantages of a 4-Day Work Week
We examined the findings of the largest 4-day work week pilot that took place in the UK from June to December 2022 and here are the reported benefits of adopting this model:
Increased productivity and job satisfaction for employees
The results of the study showed promising data on the levels of productivity and job satisfaction. In fact, the vast majority of companies reported satisfaction that business performance and productivity were maintained.
For employees, the benefits of a shorter work week included having more time to recharge and pursue personal interests, which led to feeling more focused and energized during work hours. Some of the staff members interviewed also reported on how much money they were saving on child care expenses.
Lower levels of stress and burnout
A shorter work week provides more time for employees to relax and pursue interests outside of work. This naturally leads to better work-life balance and significantly reduces the levels of stress and burnout. By the end of the UK pilot study, 39% of employees were less stressed, 48% reported no change in stress levels, and 71% experienced lower levels of burnout.
Reduced carbon footprint
Implementing a four-day work week can contribute to reducing carbon emissions as fewer employees need to commute to work every week, resulting in a smaller carbon footprint. Moreover, operating for fewer days per week could lead to cost savings on energy expenses for companies.
According to a study, the adoption of a four-day work week in the UK by 2025 could potentially reduce the country’s carbon emissions by 127 million tonnes, which is equivalent to more than 20% of the UK’s emissions, and is equivalent to taking all the private cars off the road in the country.
Enhanced recruitment and retention of talent
Offering a 4-day work week can be a significant perk for employees, helping companies to attract and retain top talent. In today’s competitive job market, providing flexible working arrangements can give companies a significant competitive edge.
Challenges and Considerations for Employers
Adopting a 4-day work week may not be a straightforward process for most companies. Employers should expect facing some challenges when implementing such a change in the workplace:
Potential resistance from management and employees
Management may resist the change, fearing the potential impact on their business objectives. While employees may worry about the increased workload and their ability to complete tasks within a shorter time frame. To address these concerns, it’s important for employers to survey employees on their preferred working models and communicate the benefits of a 4-day work week. Effective communication is key to ensuring buy-in from all stakeholders and successful implementation of the new schedule.
Concerns over maintaining productivity
The need to maintain productivity while reducing work hours is a real challenge. This requires careful planning and the implementation of new processes or technology to enhance efficiency and streamline workflows.
Need for effective communication and collaboration tools
Employers also need to provide effective communication and work organisation tools for their employees to stay connected and gain visibility on their schedules. This may involve investing in new technology, training employees on how to use it effectively, and ensuring that everyone has access to the necessary resources.
Burnout from longer hours of work per day
Burnout can be a great risk for employees, especially due to the longer workdays (e.g., the 4 x 10-hour days) or stress related to meeting business objectives within the shorter workweek. Therefore, it is crucial for employers to monitor their employees’ well-being and ensure that they have access to the necessary support and resources to manage their workload effectively.
As the workforce evolves, companies must keep pace with the demand for more flexibility. From remote work to non-traditional schedules, adapting to these changes presents numerous opportunities for companies and their employees to succeed in the shifting landscape of work.
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What country has 4 day work weeks?
Several countries have experimented with 4 day work weeks, including Sweden, Finland, New Zealand, and Japan. However, it’s important to note that not all companies in these countries have implemented a 4 day work week, and some are still in trial periods.
What are the disadvantages of a 4 day work week?
While a 4 day work week can have benefits such as increased productivity and employee satisfaction, there are also some potential disadvantages. These may include longer workdays, difficulty scheduling meetings with colleagues who work on different schedules, and the possibility of reduced pay.
What is a 4 day work week routine?
The routine for a 4 day work week may vary depending on the company and the specific schedule adopted. However, a common structure is to work four 8 to 10 hour days, with three consecutive days off. Some companies may also allow employees to work remotely or have flexible schedules, as long as they complete their required hours.