Four-Day Work Week

Ryan Archibald
Ryan Archibald
A four-day work week may seem like a dream. However, there are aspects you need to consider before implementing it at your organization. Read on to learn more about advantages, disadvantages, experiences of companies who have offered a four-day work week, and tips to help you determine if a four-day work week will benefit your company.

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What Is a Four-day Work Week?

A four-day work week can be either a compressed or shortened work week.

A compressed work week allows full-time employees to work longer days in exchange for a day off each week. An example is working 10 hours a day for four days a week.

A shortened work week gives an employee an extra day off without requiring employees to work extra hours—for instance, working eight hours a day for four days a week.Companies determine if they will pay employees for 32 hours or 40 hours per week.

What Are the Benefits of a Four-day Work Week?

Naturally, a four-day work week has both pros and cons. Here are several benefits that should not be overlooked.

Increased Productivity

The Society of Human Resource Management reports that 60% of organizations who utilize a four-day work week see an increase in productivity. When employees are in the office less often, processes become streamlined and projects are completed more efficiently.

Reduced Stress

A Gallup survey found that nearly two thirds of employees experience burnout at work, and that giving employees an extra day off to recharge can alleviate that stress and support better focus at work.

Recruiting New Talent

The younger workforce (i.e. Millenials and Gen Z) want employers that support their wellbeing, as shown in a 2018 Gallup Study. A four-day work week may be as important as medical insurance when recruiting new talent. Employers that offer a shortened or compressed work week have an extra advantage in recruiting new top talent.

Work/life Balance

An extra day off during the week allows employees to connect with family and friends as well as develop hobbies and be more rested. A balanced workforce means your employees will bring their best selves to work, increasing the possibility of more creativity and productivity to boost company success.

What Are the Disadvantages of a Four-day Work Week?

A four-day work week can also cause negative consequences for your organization.

An Expensive Risk

Some industries simply cannot afford to close the office to give their workforce a three-day weekend. Employers who shorten the work week may see an increase in employee satisfaction, but can experience additional expenses from not operating at the same capacity.

Disrupted Child Care

Child-care centers are typically open Monday through Friday for eight hours. Working 10 hours a day may leave parents trying to figure out who can watch their kids for those extra two hours at the end of the day. A four-day work week may cause talent to leave the organization for a schedule that matches their child care.

Underutilized Labor

In the case of a shortened work week, a cut in hours can lead to employees wanting to work more but not being able to. This limit on hours worked (and therefore income) may lead some talent to look for employment elsewhere.

Lag in Customer Response

Customers expect someone to pick up the phone when they call during the week. Implementing a four-day work week may cause some customers to be unhappy if no one is in the office when they call.

Companies That Are Adopting a Four-day Work Week

Implementing a four-day work week is a massive change. Let’s look at examples of companies who have tried it.

Kickstarter

In 2021, Kickstarter tested a four-day work week and had great results. The results included an increase in employee engagement while maintaining productivity company-wide. The company decided to make a four-day work week permanent in 2022. It was not revealed if they will implement a compressed or a shortened work week.

Elephant Ventures

In August 2020, this New York software company tested a four-day work week in response to burnout among its employees. The results had additional benefits other than mitigating burnout; a compressed four-day work week resulted in work completed more efficiently.

Amazon.com

It takes significant labor to pick, pack, and ship every order that customers place on Amazon.com, especially during the holiday season. In an effort to prevent employee burnout, Amazon implemented a four-day work week for warehouse employees, staggering their start days. This allows Amazon to retain employees and maintain the demands of a 24/7 operation.

eFileCabinet

A Utah-based company built on eliminating waste and improving productivity implemented a shortened work week. The company tested giving employees an extra day off: they worked only 32 hours a week and were paid for 40 hours per week. The company saw great results in increased employee engagement, productivity, and creativity. Effective August 2021, eFileCabinet is only open from Monday through Thursday.

Tips for Adopting a Four-day Work week

Utilize these tips to explore what a four-day work week can look like at your organization.

1. Clarify the Purpose

Be specific on what you want to accomplish by implementing a four-day work week. Consider the possible impacts of different structures for a four-day work week:

  • Compressed work week. Employees work four days a week/10 hours a day.
  • Shortened work week in which employees work four days a week/eight hours a day, but get paid for 40 hours per week.
  • Shortened work week in which employees work four days a week/eight hours a day and get paid for 32 hours per week.

Next, gather feedback from employees: what would they prefer? A few methods to help gather that insight include:

  • Employee focus groups. Convene a small group that represents all the employees at the company to ask them for their feedback and if they are interested in a four-day work week.
  • Anonymous employee survey. Whether you use a platform like Google or Survey Monkey, this allows every employee to be involved and give you feedback on a four-day work week.

2. Discuss the Impact of a Four-day Work Week with Leadership

If the operations of the company are negatively impacted, a four-day work week may be a bad idea. Partner with leaders of each department to determine the impact of a four-day work week. It may be possible to stagger start days if each department can run effectively with team members starting on different days.

3. Consider Impact on Leaves of Absence, Wages, and Time off Policies

Several states, including California, require that employees be paid overtime when hours worked per day pass a certain threshold—typically eight hours.

Review federal and state guidelines, including FMLA administration, ADA accommodations and benefits eligibility to determine the implications of a four-day work week.

If your company is unionized, partner with the union throughout this process to maintain good relationships and ensure employee feedback is considered.

4. Communicate the Change

Ideally, the CEO will issue a statement to all employees explaining the move to a four-day work week, the purpose for the change, and what leadership hopes to accomplish with it.

HR should plan on educating and training all leaders around this change and how it impacts their responsibilities. Educating managers will help them accept and manage any implications, whether it is eliminating certain meetings or streamlining processes.

5. Pilot Before Implementation

Choose one team or department to switch to a four-day work week first. This trial allows you to measure the impact on productivity, employee morale, and the culture of the team. If resulting data show an increase in productivity and morale, it is safe to say your company can benefit from a four-day work week.

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Questions You’ve Asked Us About Four-day Work Weeks

How does a four-day work week affect holiday entitlement?
According to the Fair Labor Standards Act(https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/flsa/faq), holiday pay is between an employer and their employees.
Are companies that implement the four-day work week more productive?
Yes. However, keep in mind these companies tested a four-day work week for a period of time while gathering employee feedback before making it a permanent practice at their company.
Do companies ever move to a four-day work week and then revert to traditional hours?
In 2008, the State of Utah(https://www.deseret.com/2011/9/5/20387145/utah-ends-4-day-workweek-experiment-but-provo-says-it-still-works-for-them) tested a four day work week with its employees, expecting to see a reduction in overhead costs. By 2011, legislature reversed course due to cost reductions not being realized and citizen complaints. Citizen complaints were focused on not having access to government services.
Ryan Archibald
Ryan Archibald

Ryan is an HR Director with four years of experience and three masters degrees. One accomplishment he is proud of is the design and launch of a learning and development program for 800+ employees.

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