Four-Day Work Week: Ultimate Guide

Home » Resources » Four Day Work WeekUpdated: July 19, 2022

You found our ultimate guide to the four-day work week.

The four-day work week is the work concept where employees only work for four days a week. Many companies are increasingly experimenting with new and creative working methods instead of adhering to the typical 9 to 5, Monday to Friday office schedule. The benefits of the four-day work week include increased productivity, lower operating costs, and better work-life balance.

This concept is a type of employee benefit and a form of time management. Many leaders employ this tactic as a way to manage remote teams.

This article contains:

  • definition of the four-day work week
  • four-day work week pros and cons
  • benefits of a four-day work week
  • 4 day work week guidelines
  • how to implement a four-day work week
  • companies with a four-day work week

Let’s get started!

Definition of the four-day work week

Four-day work week is the scenario where employees in an organization work for four-days instead of the typical five days. The four-day work week can take two different forms. The compressed form of a four-day work week indicates that employees work ten hours per day for four-days in a week, instead of eight hours per day, five days per week.

The second form is a shorter working duration, where, rather than 40 hours a week, employees work 32 hours a week. Employees often enjoy a three-day weekend if the day off is a Monday or Friday. However, companies may choose any day of the week to be “off” depending on their requirements and their workers’ preferences.

The Pros of a four-day work week

Before implementing this work system, it is important to consider four-day work week pros and cons. An extra day off means more personal time for employees, which in turn means less stress and a better work-life balance. Workers benefit from a shorter work week, but there are advantages for employers as well. Some of the benefits of four-day work week include:

1. Boost employees’ productivity

Having happy employees means a more productive workforce. In a case study published in The Guardian, Microsoft experimented with the four-day work week in Japan and discovered that employees’ happiness increased and productivity rose by 40 percent.

The explanation behind this phenomenon is that employees are more productive and focused when well-rested. Additionally, the idea is that limited hours to complete tasks will prompt workers to become more time-efficient or rely on software to automate or optimize processes.

2. Recruit and retain the best employees

Workers love a three-day weekend or public holidays. By providing this benefit to your employees, you can keep them engaged and happy at work all week long. Satisfied employees are less likely to leave, which means lower employee turnover. In addition, the four-day work week is still a novel proposition and may be a terrific way to attract top talent and boost employee loyalty.

Here are more talent retention tactics.

3. Promote gender equality

According to a report from the Government Equalities Office, women make up 89 percent of those who are unable to work because of childcare duties. The impact of Covid-19 on childcare demands means that this number will rise further. A four-day work week means more time with families and the ability to better balance work and childcare responsibilities. Ultimately, this working system might help bridge the gender pay gap.

For more insights, check out these business books for women.

4. Reduce operating costs

Cost-saving is one of the most practical benefits of a four-day work week. Every team member can benefit from reduced costs with a four-day work week, regardless of how the company handles salary. You will save money on maintenance and operating costs like power and water bills if workers do not come as often to the workplace. You can even opt for office timeshares, in which another firm pays rent for the days you do not utilize the space, allowing you to split the expense of your office space with another company. In addition, your workers would pay just one-fifth less of their commute costs.

5. Reduce unemployment rates

A four-day work week may potentially present a lifeline in today’s economic conditions. The independent think tank Autonomy believes that a four-day work week in the public sector may produce up to half a million much-needed employment in the United Kingdom. The idea is that a four-day work week distributes work evenly across the economy to open up new roles.

6. Create work and personal life balance

Allowing workers to have an additional day off each week enables them to spend time with loved ones as well as pursue their interests and hobbies. When you have a balanced workforce, your workers will probably come to work in their best version, which leads to higher levels of innovation and productivity and, ultimately, greater business success.

Here are tips for achieving work-life balance.

The cons of a four-day work week

Despite the many benefits of the four-day work week, this system is not right for every business. Some of the drawbacks include:

1. Not fit for every business model

The four-day work week would be difficult for certain organizations that need to be online and operational at all times. For example, customer service positions require that employees respond to customers’ issues all day long and sometimes over the weekend. Some clients may be angry if no employee is in the office when they call. For such companies, this work approach might cause issues and a decline in productivity.

2. Lower productivity

Some workers’ productivity may suffer due to a shortened work week which requires them to work for ten hours a day, four-days a week. Several studies in The Guardian have shown that workers are most productive when working six hours a day rather than eight or more.

3. Disruptive to child care

A typical day at a childcare facility runs over eight hours from Monday through Friday. Having to find someone to keep children for an additional two hours when working ten hours a day might be a problem for parents. When a company implements a four-day work week, employees may depart for a schedule that better fits their family’s needs, unless the employer offers alternatives, such as an on-campus daycare.

4. Underutilized labor

Employees who have a shorter work week may wish they could work more hours but are unable to do so. This constraint on working hours and income can cause some workers to opt for a job elsewhere. When employees work elsewhere to cover up their free hours of the week, then the entire idea of the four-day work week is pointless.

5. Too much uncertainty

Eliminating a full workday or lowering the number of work hours and expecting productivity to stay the same or even rise is too risky. Before making a full-time transition to a new method, it is vital to examine the hazards and maybe try it first. Unless your business has the shock absorbers to handle the outcome, this system might be for you.

How to implement a four-day work week

A four-day work week may hurt a company without adequate planning and preparation. To get you started on the right path, consider the following suggestions:

1. Determine the business goals you hope to achieve

When writing the policy for a four-day work week, taking the time to consider why you are making the change can be beneficial. It would help if you thought about how a four-day workweek may improve efficiency. The purpose could be to increase your organization’s efficiency. You may also want to boost your productivity, employee engagement, and retention rates. Highlighting the program’s goal and making it measurable will make implementation easier.

You can create as many objectives as you can and then go back and review them. This approach will prevent you from developing a strategy to learn that changing the workweek would hardly give you any reward or make any difference to your bottom line.

Additionally, you will be able to identify areas in the policy that require additional description, especially when pitching it to the board. Scheduling, benefits, and payroll are three areas that will see the most changes due to the transition to a four-day workweek.

2. Consult with team members

Communication is essential. You should check whether your employees are interested in the system, and then ask them to discuss and try alternative ideas to make it happen. Involving your staff in the process will help increase their motivation to run the four-day work week successfully.

Also, it would be best if you worked with every department in your company to create this policy. HR managers will assist you to gather materials that staff will require, while your legal team will help you choose what terminology you may and should use. It is vital to collaborate with your coworkers to develop 4 day work week guidelines that are fair to every employee.

3. Clarify what changes are happening

You should ensure the policy is clear to read and comprehend, especially about the operating protocols. This system is a major shift, and as a result, it is important to clarify exactly which situations will change and what will remain the same. In addition, the executives or CEO will be more inclined to accept if the benefits and drawbacks are clear.

One option is to go over each aspect of the organization and explain the changes and actionable steps to ensure that operations continue to run smoothly. This decision can take a top-down approach, starting at the leadership level and working down to the lowest levels of the organization.

Even your boss should be able to see how situations are going to change and who will be most affected by those changes. A four-day work week may not be a good option if the company’s operations will take a hit. Working four-days a week might positively or negatively affect your business. Alternating start dates may be an option if each department can function efficiently with team members who begin their work week on separate days.

For more advice, check out this list of books on change management.

4. Highlight the intended advantages of the transition

The advantages of this adjustment should be the most prominent feature. A four-day workweek has obvious advantages, and these should be the main point of our plan. Your boss is unlikely to read beyond the first page if you do not make the advantages evident. You can also create an action plan for realizing the benefits too. For example, if you are going to talk about increasing worker productivity, you need also talk about how you will achieve it.

5. Determine the work schedule

Clearly defining expectations for how workers should work and communicate is significant. Here are a few major considerations:

  • The working hours
  • Who decides the off day: the company or the employee?
  • Changes to pay or operating costs
  • Changes to the holiday allowance

These considerations are necessary because they act as a guide when setting up policies for the four-day work week. The general rule of computing leave allowance is multiplying the number of days worked a week by 5.6. The 5-day workweek grants employees 28 days of leave each year. As a result, an employee who works a 4-day week gets 22.4 days of leave, which is four-days multiplied by 5.6 weeks.

6. Consider testing the system first

Testing the work system is advisable before implementation. It will be easier to sort out any kinks in your flexible work policy and make changes after a one-month trial period. You may come to a different conclusion after a month of trying the four-day work week. Employers can take these steps before committing the organization to costly or legal work.

7. Try the part-time option

You may want to explore providing a four-day workweek during certain weeks or months of the year. This system works if your business tends to get busier at certain months of the year than others. You can have fewer work hours during the freer months. For example, Basecamp offers a 4-day work week from May through September.

8. Consider the impact on policies for paid time off, sick leave, and wages

Many states require that companies compensate employees for overtime after crossing a minimum number of work hours, usually eight hours. You should read federal and state laws such as the FMLA’s administration and the Americans with Disabilities Act and discover how they affect a four-day work week. For unionized firms, working with the union throughout this process can help you maintain excellent ties with your employees and guarantee that the company considers their feedback.

List of companies with a four-day work week

An organization’s shift to a four-day work week is a huge undertaking. Here are some examples of companies that have tried the system:

1. Kickstarter

Kickstarter experimented with a four-day work week in 2021 and had excellent results. Employee engagement increased, and productivity remained consistent across the organization. The firm has opted to stick with a four-day work week for good in 2022.

2. Elephant Ventures

Elephant Ventures, a New York software firm, tried a four-day work week in August 2020. In addition to reducing burnout, the four-day work week resulted in more work completed in less time.

3. Amazon.com

Amazon.com’s team works long and hard to fulfill every purchase, particularly during the busy holiday season. Employees at Amazon’s warehouses now work a four-day week, with staggered start dates. Amazon can retain its workforce and meet the needs of a 24-hour business because of this system.

4. eFileCabinet

This Utah-based firm that helps companies cut waste and boost productivity established a shorter work week. The company paid workers for 40 hours of labor each week for the experiment, even though they only worked for 32 hours. The firm recorded impressive outcomes in terms of employee engagement, productivity, and creative output.

5. Perpetual Guardian

In a two-month experiment, the firm Perpetual Guardian, based in New Zealand, implemented a four-day work week. The company did not cut employees’ salary despite reducing working hours to 32 per week.

Employees generally reported greater work-life balance, job satisfaction, health, and reduced work-related stress after the study. This timetable was a success for the workforce, so the firm decided to make it permanent.

6. Buffer

Buffer tried out a four-day work week to assist staff cope with the pandemic’s stress and changes in routine. The study’s findings indicated that employees had more autonomy, reported less stress, and had better levels of happiness at work.

7. Ninety

In the United Kingdom, Ninety is one firm that implemented a four-day workweek in November 2020. The company recorded a positive response to the system, and many team members look forward to a three-day weekend, which they may use for personal growth, side hustles, or simply relaxing.

In conclusion

There is no direct answer to whether a four-day work week is good for your firm since every business is different. On the other hand, employers must stay flexible to keep their employees motivated and productive.

You can talk to your employees about the future of work and what they envision. You can use employee surveys to find out which workplace solutions are most suited for your company’s needs.

For more resources, check out these lists of books on office management and employee benefits software.

FAQ: Four-day work weeks

Here are some frequently asked questions about four-day work weeks.

What is a four-day work week?

The four-day work week is a working system where employees work for four-days in a business week instead of the typical five days.

What are the benefits of four-day work weeks?

Some of the benefits of four-day work weeks include increased productivity, better work-life balance, and lower operating costs.

How do you implement four-day work weeks?

You can implement the four-day work week by consulting with team members, determining the intended goals, and setting proper guidelines for the system.

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Author: Grace He

Grace is the Director of People & Culture at TeamBuilding. She studied Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, Information Science at East China Normal University and earned an MBA at Washington State University.

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