Working long hours doesn’t always equal productivity. A study reveals that, on average, employees only spend about 4 hours actively working during a regular eight-hour workday.¹ The rest of the time is often filled with activities like checking social media, reading the news, making food, or searching for new job opportunities.
Today, the four-day workweek movement has increased significantly. From increased job satisfaction to enhanced productivity, the benefits are enormous. Let’s walk you through what a four-day workweek means, why it’s gaining momentum, and how it can benefit your organization.
What Is a Four-Day Work Week?
A four-day workweek is a different way of organizing work, where employees work only four days each week but still get paid the same as a standard five-day workweek. This approach means employees get paid their full salary for working 80% of the usual time but promise to maintain 100% productivity.
The primary purpose of a four-day week arrangement is to give employees more time for themselves and their families, allowing them to relax, spend quality time, and engage in things they love to do.
This idea has become more popular recently, with many organizations worldwide testing the new setup and some even implementing it permanently. Some companies, however, use a compressed schedule, fitting the regular 40-hour workweek into four days. The schedules can differ depending on how a company adopts this concept. In some cases, employees get Fridays off, while others rotate.
Four-Day Work Week Benefits
Many businesses and organizations have discovered that adopting a four-day arrangement benefits employees and employers. Trials have shown that it improves work-life balance, reduces stress levels, and increases productivity.
1. Improved Work-Life Balance and Employee Well-Being
According to Zippia, 72 percent of workers consider work-life balance very important when choosing a job, and 57 percent of job-seekers won’t consider a new job if it doesn’t offer good work and life harmony.²
One of the standout benefits of the four-day week is its positive impact on employee well-being. Employees get more time to rest and recharge with that extra day off every week.
This added leisure time leads to lower stress levels, better mental health, and an improved personal and professional life. Employees can find more time for their hobbies, quality moments with loved ones, or just plain relaxation, all of which contribute to their overall happiness and job satisfaction.
Related article: Employees Need Your Help with Work-Life Balance
2. Increased Productivity
According to a study by Stanford’s John Pencavel, when people work over 50 hours a week, their productivity per hour starts to drop. Beyond 55 hours, working more doesn’t help; in fact, it becomes counterproductive. ³
Employees tend to be more focused and efficient when they have fewer hours in the office. Knowing they have a shorter week, they are motivated to complete tasks quickly and prioritize their work. This work arrangement reduces the risk of burnout, which can negatively impact productivity and employee engagement.
3. Employee Attraction and Retention
Many of the companies that offer a four-day workweek are reporting a positive turnaround in the attraction and retention of top talent.
Aaron Leary, the CEO and founder of Bedrock, didn’t hold back when talking to CNBC’s “Make It” about shifting to a four-day workweek and said it’s a game-changer for retention and recruitment.⁴
Over at Loud Mouth Media, they’ve seen some significant changes, too. Mark Haslam, Managing Director, shared that their applications have doubled. In addition, their employees have become more loyal, increasing their retention rate from 80 percent to 98 percent.
Today’s job market is highly competitive, and job seekers actively seek employers who offer flexible and innovative work arrangements. Undoubtedly, the four-day week can set a company apart from its competitors, making it an attractive option for prospective employees.
4. Reduced Cost
In 2008, Utah introduced a four-day workweek with longer shifts of 10 hours a day, commonly known as the “4/10” schedule.⁵ Although the program was later reversed, an official audit uncovered some interesting findings.
- 81% of employees preferred the 4/10 schedule.
- Employees took less personal leave and compensatory time off during this period than the year before.
- They experienced a boost in employee morale.
- The state also managed to save nearly $1 million in operating costs.
Working four days a week can be cost-saving for both employees and employers. Employees spend less on commuting, work attire, and meals at the office. At the same time, employers can benefit from reduced overhead costs, such as electricity and office maintenance—just for closing the office one more day.
5. Environmental Benefits
Reducing the number of workdays can also positively impact the environment. Fewer days in the office mean fewer commuting trips, resulting in reduced traffic congestion and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, companies can reduce energy consumption when offices are closed for an extra day.
From Theory to Practice: Examples of Companies Embracing the Four-Day Workweek
Several companies have already embraced the concept and have reaped impressive results. Let’s take a look at a few examples:
Buffer, led by Joel Gascoigne, decided to try out a four-day workweek experiment in May 2020. This move was partly influenced by the challenges posed by COVID-19 and other considerations. They wanted to see how it would impact their team’s overall well-being, mental health, and personal relationships.
Initially, it was temporary, but the results were quite impressive. Increased productivity and enhanced well-being made it clear that the four-day workweek was successful. By June 2020, it had become a permanent part of their work culture.
In the fall of 2021, Bolt introduced a four-day workweek through a three-month pilot program. The company gathered employees’ feedback to assess whether this arrangement should become permanent. Their goal was to boost employee happiness and well-being. Ultimately, they received positive results and made it a permanent setup.
Jennifer Christie, Bolt’s Chief People Officer, shared that their aim was not to squeeze five days’ worth of work into four days. Instead, Bolt wanted employees to concentrate on the most impactful tasks and prioritize what mattered most.
Goosechase introduced the same setup with Fridays off. This change was introduced as part of an experiment called “Flock Fridays.” While they recognized certain challenges, especially in customer-facing roles, the company reported positive results in increased productivity for employees and the overall organization.
Implementation of a New Work Setup With Only Four Days
Implementing a four-day workweek requires careful planning and consideration. Here are some steps you can take to transition to this innovative work arrangement:
1. Assess Feasibility
The initial thing to do is determine if the arrangement could work for your organization. Look at your business, the industry, and your employee’s unique roles and responsibilities. Remember that it might be simpler for some companies to make this shift than others.
2. Set Clear Goals
Setting clear goals will help you measure the success of the transition.
- Are you aiming to improve employee well-being, boost productivity, or reduce costs?
- How long are you willing to test the new setup?
- Will this apply to core functions or everyone in the whole organization?
3. Involve Employees
Getting your employees involved in the decision-making process is crucial. Try to hear their thoughts and gather feedback to ensure the new schedule aligns with their needs and preferences. If they have any worries, address them and create a space for open and honest communication.
4. Create a Flexible Schedule
Explore different scheduling options, like going for a compressed workweek with four ten-hour days or giving employees the flexibility to pick their day off. Having some flexibility can go a long way in meeting your team members’ different needs and preferences.
5. Monitor Progress
Once you’ve implemented the four-day workweek, monitor progress and gather feedback regularly. Adjustments may be necessary to fine-tune the schedule and address any unforeseen challenges.
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1. Morris, Kathy. “Here’s how many hours workers are actually productive and what they’re doing instead.” Zippia, 23 Jan. 2023, www.zippia.com/average-productive-hours-per-day.
2. McCain, Abby. “20+ Vital Work-Life Balance Statistics : Is Work Life Balance Your Second Priority?” Zippia, Jun. 29, 2023, www.zippia.com/work-life-balance-statistics.
3. Pencavel, John. “The Productivity of Working Hours.” Stanford University, Apr. 2014, docs.iza.org/dp8129.
4. Kiderlin, Sophie. “4-day work week firms are seeing a surge in job applications.” CNBC, 18 Oct. 2022, www.cnbc.com/is-the-four-day-work-week-the-key-to-recruiting-and-retaining-workers.
5. “A Performance Audit Of the Working 4 Utah Initiative” Utah Office of the Legislative Auditor General, Jul. 2010, le.utah.gov/audit/10_10arpt.