During my keynote last month at a national conference, I suggested that participants consider instituting a 4 day work week. There were audible cheers, enough to know this topic was rich with potential. My discussions with leaders in many organizations, as well as staff, shifts between employees’ desires for a 4 day work week and the practicality of it. Depending on the job, this may be a great option, especially in offices, for white collar work!
Retention, hiring, productivity and business growth are some of the benefits. Here is why your company needs to take a close look.
4 Day Work Week Case Studies from Around the Globe
Iceland launched a bold experiment. The idea was simple – employees would work four days a week. They would get paid the same and earning the same benefits, but with the same workload. Belgium followed and let employees decide if they wanted to work 4 or 5 days per week. The UK is testing a pilot program as well.
The pilot program is Iceland was dubbed a success by researchers. Icelandic trade unions negotiated for a reduction in working hours.
4 Day Work Week in the U.S.?
Let’s bring it home. In the U.S. the stats are clear which is why I mentioned this at the conference. For some companies, cutting back to a 4 day work week has many benefits. According to Juliet Schor, an economist, a sociology professor at Boston College an author of the book The Overworked American, plus leads research at 4 Day Week Global who said, “There are many people who are spending more time at the office than they need to.”
This can lead to burnout among other things, especially in fast-paced industries like healthcare. However, the reaction at HR conferences I present at are mixed. I’ve heard that there would be scheduling challenges to reversing back to 5 days if the program does not yield enough benefits for the organization.
Other ideas to help organizations are meeting free Fridays or starting later in the morning and working later is also an option.
New Zealand based company, Perpetual Guardian, conducted a trial study of a 4 day work week. Not only did employees maintain the same productivity level, but they also showed improvements in job satisfaction, teamwork, work/life balance and company loyalty. Employees also experienced less stress with a decrease of 45% to 38%.
Impressive! There is also increased employee engagement, which can lead to less stress and fewer sick days.
To be clear, hours per work week would not lessen. It stays the same, but more workers appear to be open to trying a 40-hour week in four days instead of five.
A 4 Day Work Week to Benefit Employee Health
I believe that we need to take a longer view and focus on employee health, well-being, stress and also look into alternative work week options. Doing this will have a significant effect on morale, productivity, retention. Between the pandemic, child care, aging parents that need attention during the week and appointments we need to focus on, individual needs of employees as well as the whole team and company can be better served.
I concluded my conference discussion by stating that the messages from workers appears clear. Over ½ would prefer a 4 day work week. We simply do not have enough information to conclude that a 4 day work week benefits employees and employer, but the stats keep compiling and signs of workers and continued studies seem to suggest that this is a viable option that needs to be considered.
40 hours a week, in four 10-hour days. It’s appealing for sure.
What are your thoughts?