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Why you should try a four-day workweek (+ how to pitch it)


What would you do with a three-day weekend? You might spend more time with your family, catch up on a hobby or project, or learn to cook something new. The popularity of remote and hybrid work has many employers reexamining what styles of work make for the happiest and most productive employees. Many of those employers have decided to try something that would have been considered radical just a few years ago: a four-day workweek. 

The concept of the four-day workweek has become increasingly popular, and not just among small businesses. Amazon, Microsoft, and Panasonic are all currently running four-day workweek pilot programs. In the U.K., 61 companies tested a four-day workweek for what was supposed to be a six-month trial; more than a year later, 54 of those companies have kept it. 

Andrew Barnes, the author of The 4 Day Week, said, “By focusing on productivity and output rather than time spent in a workplace, the four-day week allows for better work-life balance, improved employee satisfaction, retention, and mental health.”

 

What is a four-day workweek?

A four-day workweek is just what it sounds like, but its implementation can vary. Some plans compensate workers for five days worth of work, even though they’re working a four-day workweek, while others only compensate workers for four days worth of work. Employers who implement a four-day workweek might require each workday to be ten hours long, rather than the standard eight-hour day. Each plan is unique to each organization and its policies, so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.

There’s a rising call for a four-day workweek, driven by several factors. Over the years, workers have been able to accomplish more within their work hours. However, the compensation hasn’t seen a similar increase, leading to a discrepancy between productivity and pay. As a result, many are advocating for a shorter workweek to ensure fair compensation for their efforts and time.

Companies can also save money by using fewer resources when employees spend less time in the office. They won’t have to pay for electricity and utility usage when no employees will be in the building. Office resources like paper and custodial services are also not used or needed on those off days, saving money. Companies also look for increased productivity from workers as they’re more refreshed and ready to work from long weekends and better work-life balance.

A good case study of the benefits of a four-day workweek was done by Microsoft Japan in the summer of 2019. Employees there worked four days a week while receiving their normal five-day paycheck. The results that they saw speak for themselves.

They reported increased efficiency across the business. Decreased electricity usage, fewer meetings held, and fewer pages printed helped contribute. The company says this all resulted in a 40% productivity boost across the business.

The four-day workweek is quite popular in Europe as well. The UK Labour Party adopted the four-day workweek as an official policy. The Netherlands’ average weekly working hours are about 29 hours, which is the lowest of any industrialized nation. This was implemented to ensure work-life balance for workers regardless of industry. Belgium recently became the first European country to actually legislate a four-day workweek, and others may soon follow suit. Germany started a pilot program in February 2024 testing a four-day workweek with 45 companies. 

All these policy changes are signs of increasing interest in finding new ways to work that provide increased benefits to workers.

Four-day workweek pros + cons

While a four-day workweek has many benefits, it also has some drawbacks. Balancing both is essential for the successful adoption of this workplace practice.

Pros:

  • Better work-life balance: Giving employees an extra personal day allows them to work on personal projects, hobbies, and spend more time with their families. Working long hours contributes to stress, which in turn can have negative health effects on workers. Improved work-life balance helps employees be healthier and ready to work.
  • Increased productivity: Surprisingly, a shorter workweek can lead to increased productivity. With fewer days in the office, employees are often more focused and motivated to complete their tasks efficiently, reducing procrastination and time wasted during the workday.
  • Competitive advantage for hiring: A four-day workweek is also a competitive advantage for employees. Employees value work-life balance and flexible scheduling. Companies that offer plans like this can advertise themselves as leaders in that space. Offering hybrid schedules and a four-day workweek is one of the most effective ways of giving employees the flexibility they crave while maintaining productivity. 
  • Enhanced employee satisfaction: Offering a four-day workweek can significantly boost employee satisfaction and morale. Employees appreciate having an extra day off to pursue personal interests and hobbies, leading to higher levels of job satisfaction and loyalty to the company. Employees enjoy working at a company where management places employee satisfaction first.

Cons:

  • Complex to implement: Changing from a five-day to four-day workweek isn’t easy to do. Schedules have to be changed, policies adjusted, and workers briefed about the change. This adjusts the way all aspects of your business function, so it can take time to roll it out. Consider whether your employees need to be in the office, remote, or hybrid. These policies may have to change if you transition to a four-day workweek. 
  • Increased pressure with deadlines: Workers will have fewer days to complete projects while working reduced or the same number of hours per week. This can put increased pressure on employees to get things done when they have less time. Work from outside organizations can still come in on days that aren’t worked, creating additional stress.
  • Doesn’t work with every industry: Not every industry can switch to a four-day workweek as well. Doctors and nurses need to be on call during the week, and giving them a day off can have severe consequences for their employer. Customers expect some stores to stay open five days a week, making switching team schedules hard.
  • Potential decrease in work hours: While a four-day workweek may seem appealing, some employees may be concerned about a potential decrease in work hours and subsequent impact on their income. Companies must carefully consider how to maintain employee compensation while implementing a shorter workweek.

Four-day workweek statistics

  1. 59% of companies are open to a four-day working week (Tech.co Impact of Technology in the Workplace Report)
  2. A quarter of survey respondents (25%) would even take a 15% pay cut for a four-day workweek. (Owl Labs State of Remote Work)
  3. More than 95% of those with four-day workweeks reported healthier, happier work environments. (Financial Times)
  4. The average U.K. office worker is only productive for two hours and 53 minutes on a normal workday. (Vouchercloud.com)
  5. One in four (28%) workers said [a four-day workweek] would be appealing in a future employer, with non-managers being 40% more inclined to want it than managers. (Owl Labs State of Remote Work)
  6. 73.1%, of teammates stated that they feel more energized [with a four-day workweek], while 26.9 percent don’t feel particularly different. (Buffer Survey)
  7. Over 50% of professionals in the USA feel burnt out. (LinkedIn Research)
  8. 56% of workers said that their level of work-related stress has increased since last year. (Owl Labs State of Remote Work)
  9. 77% of workers reported increased productivity when working a four-day week. (DriveResearch Study)
  10. 19% of workers selected a four-day work week as a top 3 benefit that would be most appealing in a prospective employer. (Owl Labs State of Remote Work)

 

How to write a 4-Day workweek proposal

1. Determine what business needs will be met by a four-day workweek.

Thinking of the reasons why you’re changing your policy will pay off when you’re writing it. Find things that are inefficient and think of how a four-day workweek will solve them. Run through as many as you find and then look back on them. This will stop you from writing up a plan only to discover that you don’t need to change your workweek to gain some benefits.

Take into account the work style your organization currently offers. Are a substantial number of your employees hybrid workers? If so, are you going to allow them to continue their hybrid schedule when the four-day workweek is implemented? There is no right or wrong answer here, but you need to find what works best for your company and your team’s goals. 

This will also help you find areas that are going to need more detail in writing. The ones that experience the biggest shifts to a four-day workweek such as scheduling, benefits, and payroll sections should be the most detailed to account for the change.

2. Consult with different areas of your business on what they need.

When you’re writing this policy, you should be working with every area of your business for their input. The legal team will help clarify what language you can and should use, while your HR managers will help you compile resources that employees will need.

These changes impact every business area, so work with them to write the policy that works most fairly for everyone. You’ll also see areas that should be written with more detail for workers so it’s easy to pitch to your boss.

3. Be clear about what’s changing and staying the same.

The policy should be easy to read and understand what will be happening. A shift like this is big, so it should be spelled out clearly what will be changing and staying the same. It’s easier to weigh the risks when the pros and cons are easy to understand, so your boss will be more likely to approve it if it’s clear.

One helpful way would be to go through each part of the organization and discuss the changes and what will be done to make sure things still work. This can be done from a top-down approach, going from the highest levels of the organization down to individual teams and workers. Your boss will be able to see how things will change and who will be most impacted.

4. Clearly label the intended benefits of the change.

The most important part to highlight is the benefits of this change. We know that changing to a four-day workweek has its benefits, so those must be the crux of the proposal. Without making the benefits clear, your manager probably won’t read past the first page. Accompany each benefit with a plan to make sure it happens as well. If you’re explaining how worker productivity will be increased, explain how you plan to make sure it happens if it doesn’t occur at the expected level.