Just imagine: Four days a week on the job, followed by a glorious three-day weekend. Can you picture it? Does this seem more like a utopian fantasy than a concrete reality? For those of us who have only known the continuous, relentless hustle of a capitalistic society, it’s hard to envision shifting away from a 40-hour grind. But—cue the celebratory music—projections show that a 4-day work week might, in fact, become our new norm.
Benefits of a 4-Day Work Week
In the fourth quarter of 2022, Microsoft released its annual Work Trend Index survey, and the results were telling. 48 percent of employees and 53 percent of managers reported intense levels of burnout due to an increase in meetings, work hours, and other activity metrics during the pandemic. While 87 percent of employees have still been able to maintain productivity, this exhausting pace likely won’t be sustainable for too much longer. Overwork and overwhelm will ultimately lead to collapse, warns the research team at Microsoft.
So what’s the solution? Well…according to a recent pilot study in the U.K., transitioning to a four-day work week could be the energizer we all need to reclaim our mental health and accelerate our performance. Over the course of about six months, 61 British companies across numerous business sectors allowed their teams to work 32 hours (or four days) a week instead of the usual 40 hours (or five days). Here’s how those companies fared:
- 92 percent will continue on with a four-day work week, and 18 out of the 61 businesses have confirmed this change will be permanent.
- 54 percent of employees have a healthier work-life balance now and agree it’s easier to manage their career, home, and social commitments.
- 71 percent of employees no longer deal with burnout, and 39 percent are less anxious or stressed as a result of adopting a four-day work week.
- On average, employee absenteeism fell by 65 percent, with 80 percent of employees noticing an improvement in mental or physical wellness.
- On average, the companies have seen a 57 percent decline in staff turnover rates, a 1.4 percent increase in revenue, and no issues with productivity.
- 48 percent of employees are more satisfied with their jobs, and 15 percent confirm no amount of money will entice them to resume a five-day work week.
Given the success of this pilot study with our neighbors across the pond, is it only a matter of time until the four-day work week filters into offices (or virtual platforms) here on North American shores? That remains to be seen, but a handful of U.S. companies have already begun to test it out. So as we collectively hold our breaths to determine whether this trend will catch on, here’s what you should know about the logistics of a four-day work week.
How to Structure and Implement a 4-Day Work Week
The goal of a four-day work week is to produce the same volume and quality of deliverables in a shorter amount of time. So rather than hustling for a minimum of 40 hours, Monday through Friday, teams would scale back to about 32 hours, with three days off. Of course, it’s not an efficient model if employees cannot reach the performance quotas they need to be hitting. But if employees maintain (or even increase) their productivity benchmarks, the question becomes: Why not at least experiment with a four-day work week?
4-day work week ideas
There are a few different ways to structure a four-day work week, and any of these formats can be customized to meet the specific needs of remote, onsite, or hybrid teams. Below is a quick rundown of how companies are starting to introduce the four-day work week into their business operations. (Hint: we’re talking some major industry names such as Amazon, Buffer, Shopify, Kickstarter, and Basecamp, among other early adopters.)
- The Staggered 4-Day Schedule: This format ensures that all team members have one consistent weekday off, but the particular day varies from one employee to the next. For instance, some might be off on Tuesday, while others are off on Thursday. As a result, the business can still run five days a week, without requiring employees to be on the job that whole time. In terms of efficiency, this model is the most practical.
- The Streamlined 4-Day Schedule: This format operates as a true four-day work week in the sense that all team members are on the clock Monday through Thursday, with offices closed on Friday. In some cases, employees will have to work 10-hour days to balance out such a compact schedule. While it creates uniformity across the board— from senior managers to new hires—this model can be hard to sustain.
- The Seasonal 4-Day Schedule: This format allows team members to enjoy the benefits of a four-day work week at periodic times in the year. For instance, employees might have an extra day off per week over the summer months, June through September. Or that extra day off might come over the holiday season, October through December. This model can help to gradually ease into a permanent four-day work week.
The 4-Day Work Week Can Be a Flexible Game Changer
All of these four-day work week options share one common denominator: Flexibility. And this just so happens to be the benefit that employees value more than any other perk. According to a recent Future Forum survey, 94 percent of respondents want to choose when they work, and 70 percent will consider searching for a new job if their current role lacks schedule flexibility. Not to mention, employees who cannot flex their hours report 3.4 times more stress or anxiety and 2.2 times worse work-life balance, on average. That’s a recipe for burnout.
Listen…we’re not insinuating the four-day work week is a foolproof answer to all the challenges employees and businesses continue to face in the aftermath of this pandemic. Time will show if it’s an effective solution to combat the exhaustion and overwhelm most of us are reeling from. But for now, can we just agree to think outside the restrictive norms of “hustle culture” and push for the flexible, sustainable balance we deserve as human beings?