February 20, 2024

Henry Ford introduced the five-day, 40-hour workweek nearly 100 years ago when he discovered that working more only yielded a small amount of short-lived productivity. Although this was a big deal and a favorable step for workers’ rights at the time, we’ve come a long way in the past century—and workers want more. 

While the four-day workweek has been tried and tested countless times over the years, it’s gained traction since the pandemic. COVID-19 has changed the work landscape and proven that flexible work schedules, well, work.  

The four-day workweek refers to working 32 hours weekly for the same pay. With many employees searching for more dynamic workdays and hours, a compressed workweek can be a great way for companies to stand out and boost employee retention.

In recent years, a growing number of companies worldwide have tried and implemented four-day workweeks. Global research shows many benefits, such as higher productivity, employee engagement and morale, and reduced costs. However, instituting this major change takes time and work! Let’s explore some benefits along with a few factors and recommendations to consider below.

Benefits of a Four-day Workweek

Better Work-life Balance

A four-day workweek gives employees another day to spend on family and personal matters. This makes scheduling important appointments, handling housework, and caring for kids or other family members easier. For parents, this flexible work schedule provides more free time to spend with their kids. 

Employees with a better work-life balance will feel more valued and satisfied, and the positive effects will ripple!

Improved Employee Acquisition & Retention

Attract new candidates with an appealing four-day workweek. Since this is still an up-and-coming concept, it will help your company stand out, especially for those looking for flexibility. Drawing more applicants can lead to more candidates to choose from

It’s also a great employee retention strategy, as current employees will be more likely to stay because they’ll be happier and healthier. This will foster employee loyalty and appreciation for the work-life balance it provides.

Increased Employee Wellness

Thanks to improved morale and work-life balance, employees will be happier, less stressed, and less likely to burn out or get overwhelmed. This promotes stronger physical and mental health, reducing absenteeism and improving productivity.

The four-day workweek is seeing results worldwide. For example, the U.K. ran a trial with 61 companies and 2,900 workers from June to December 2022. By the end of the pilot, 39% of employees reported less stress, and 71% noted lower burnout levels. Additionally, participants reported less anxiety, fatigue, and sleep issues and improved mental and physical health.

Higher Productivity

Speaking of productivity, a shortened workweek doesn’t necessarily mean less will get done. In fact, it can help boost employee productivity because people know they need to meet deadlines and expectations in four days instead of five. As a result, they will have to prioritize well, eliminate distractions, and use time-saving techniques to complete their work on time.

Knowing they have a shorter workweek can also increase employee engagement and motivation. Long hours can cause burnout, frustration, stress, and lack of focus. But shorter working hours give employees more time away from work so they can come in feeling fresh every week.

Reduced Costs

You’ll save on facility and operations costs as your team will be in the office one less day a week, reducing water and electricity usage. Improved employee well-being can also help lower insurance costs. Plus, lower turnover means lower hiring costs.

A four-day workweek also lowers costs for employees, who will save on their vehicle and transportation costs, work clothes, and childcare. Childcare costs have risen so much in certain areas that it’s taking a toll on parents’ jobs, according to one 2023 report. The study found that 13% of families with children five and younger have faced job changes due to childcare costs and issues. These changes “include quitting a job, not taking a job or greatly changing a job in the previous year.”

This makes sense, knowing the average family spends anywhere from 8% to 19.3% of their income on care. Many are finding it’s simply not a wise financial decision, with one parent deciding to stay home or reduce their work hours.

Bottom line: Easing financial stress by freeing up more of their time can boost employee satisfaction and productivity.

6 Tips for Implementing a Four-day Workweek

If you’re considering a transition to the four-day workweek, there are several steps and considerations you’ll want to take into account. Below are a few recommendations to get you started.

1. Align Goals & Objectives

Before you dive into a 32-hour workweek, your leadership team should evaluate and define company and departmental goals to ensure everyone is aligned and headed in the same direction. There are several frameworks you can use to set goals and evaluate success, such as:

  • Management by Objectives (MBO): Employees and managers collaboratively set goals that align with the organization’s overall objectives. Progress is regularly reviewed, and rewards or incentives may be tied to goal achievement. 
  • Objectives and Key Results (OKRs): This framework aligns individual and team goals with company objectives. Objectives are the overarching goals, while key results are specific, measurable outcomes that indicate progress toward those objectives.
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): KPIs are specific metrics used to measure progress toward strategic objectives. They are often tailored to a company or department’s specific goals and needs (e.g., revenue growth, customer satisfaction scores, and employee retention rates).

2. Take a New Approach to Meetings

4 Day Week Global says that most companies that shift to a four-day workweek make three significant changes, the first being to “radically shorten and reform meetings.” Fewer hours in the week means less time to waste in meetings that could’ve been an email (or a quick chat or phone call), so evaluate when you can use alternative forms of communication.

When meetings are necessary, it’s vital to keep them concise and on track by:

  • Using an agenda and sticking to it (you could even designate a set amount of time to specific topics)
  • Giving attendees time to prepare 
  • Setting expectations of what will be discussed (and possibly what will NOT)
  • Allowing participants a certain amount of time to speak—and not letting long-winded types derail the meeting 

3. Leverage Technology

Another recommendation from 4 Day Week Global notes is to “use technology more thoughtfully and mindfully.” Consider where your organization could benefit from automation. What tools could remove menial tasks from people’s plates so they have more time to focus on their core functions? What will support them and help them do their jobs faster? 

As mentioned above, alternative communication methods and file-sharing tools are also essential. For example, you may need a project management app like Asana for quick sharing, review, feedback, and approvals. Chat apps like Slack can also be highly efficient. Most companies need a Google Business Suite or Microsoft 365 to integrate document creation, file sharing, presentations, meetings, and more. 

4. Structure the Workday

With a compressed workweek comes the need for more disciplined days—just remember that your employees are human! According to 4 Day Week Global, businesses that successfully transition “redesign the workday to build in distinct periods for focused work, meetings, and social time.” 

Balancing all three is crucial to ensure people have enough time for deep focus, uninterrupted work, and collaboration. Designating social time ensures it won’t feel too rigid and allows colleagues to continue building positive relationships.

5. Ensure Focused & Maximized Roles

Are your employees spending much of their day on administrative and repetitive tasks like data entry? These often suck up their time, so they have less to spend on their specialties—which should be the priority. There’s also a good chance the menial work is becoming a grind and hurting morale. 

Instead, automate, outsource, or eliminate administrative duties to free up qualified team members’ time. This allows them to do what they do best (and enjoy most), benefiting your company!

6. Start with a Trial

Last but perhaps most importantly, start with a four-day workweek trial! There will be much to learn, many kinks to work out, and at least a few mistakes along the road. Starting with a pilot program is critical to identifying potential hiccups and setting clear employee expectations. 

Start with a trial period of at least three months. Before launching the trial, be sure to: 

  • Document the parameters and expectations and communicate them with employees—ensure they understand this is a temporary test run
  • Train managers and staff on any shifting/changing responsibilities
  • Provide productivity coaching

Thorough preparation before the pilot will streamline the experience and improve the chances of success. The trial itself will help you determine if a shortened workweek will suit your business and where you may need to make additional adjustments.

Give the Four-day Workweek a Shot

There’s no sugarcoating it: Instituting a four-day workweek is no simple task! But doing so can offer you and your team many benefits, from happier, healthier employees to increased productivity to setting your company apart from the competition. With patience, careful planning, and transparent communication, your organization could be the next to offer this up-and-coming flexible schedule.

Do you need tailored guidance in developing a plan for a four-day workweek? Contact BlueLion’s HR consultants at 603-818-4131 or info@bluelionllc.com to learn how we can help you with this and other areas of your workplace culture today!

The information on this website, including its newsletters, is not, nor is it intended to be legal advice. You should contact an attorney or HR specialist for advice on your individual situation.