“Work smarter, not harder” has been the go-to mantra of many management consultants for years. Could that mean it’s time to move past the traditional 40-hour workweek? Growing evidence shows that ditching the conventional five-day workweek could benefit employers and employees equally.
That’s why many companies are moving to a four-day workweek. More than 50% of US employers offer or plan to provide a 4-day workweek to their employees.
How can a 4-day workweek benefit your organization? Learn why so many companies are rallying behind it now.
What to know about a 4-day workweek
Although models vary based on business needs, there are several approaches that companies take to the 4-day workweek. While some companies adopt a 10-hour workday to meet a 40-hour workweek spread over 4 days, other organizations are exploring a shorter 32-hour week spread across 4 traditional 8-hour workdays.
Why to consider a 4-day workweek
A century ago, Henry Ford found that employees were more productive when they worked 5 days a week instead of 6. The 5-day workweek had an impact on employees’ loyalty and morale, too.
But many employers believe it’s high time to rethink this model as companies in the US—and across the world—are slowly adopting a 4-day workweek.
Here are a few reasons your company may want to consider joining their ranks:
Greater productivity: A common concerns about a 4-day workweek is that it may result in a decrease in productivity. However, when Microsoft Japan trimmed the workweek by a day in 2019, it led to a 40% spike in productivity. Even the 2022 Four Day Week Global conducted a global trial to study the impact of a shorter workweek and found similar results, with employees covering 100% of their usual workload in just 80% of the time.
And it’s not just big corporations! Andrew Barnes with the Perpetual Guardian in New Zealand also tried this experiment. His team ended up happier and more productive while still meeting the needs of their customers.
Researchers in Iceland followed a group of employees who cut their weekly hours from 40 to 35 and found that participants were able to use the extra time to focus on socializing and exercising, which improved their work performance.
Increased retention: The four-day workweek may help to reduce employee turnover. According to a recent survey, 1 in 3 employees would quit their current position for one that offers a 4-day workweek.
Reduced overhead expenses: From a financial perspective, numerous studies show that switching to a 4-day workweek can cut overhead and other costs. In the Microsoft Japan experiment, for instance, electricity bills decreased by 23%. Plus, with fewer workdays, there’s a decrease in the use of office supplies, less wear-and-tear on printers and copiers, and a less frequent need for cleaning services.
Better for the environment: A study by the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that a 10% reduction in working hours slashed an individual’s carbon footprint by 8.6%. This led researchers to argue that a shorter workweek is crucial for reducing global carbon emissions.
How to implement a 4-day workweek
The 4-day workweek can only work if companies carefully consider how they can reduce hours without compromising business outcomes. Organizations must focus on eliminating administrative burdens, streamlining operations, and focusing on high-impact work.
Some things to focus on include:
- Identifying the work that matters most: Focusing on objective and key results can help define team-level and companywide goals.
- Run meeting audits: 71% of meetings are deemed inefficient and unproductive. Companies can make sure time is used most efficiently by reducing unnecessary meetings or reducing the size of those gatherings.
- Empower employees: Many workers are stuck with various menial or administrative tasks that prevents them from focusing on high-impact work. Some of these tasks might could be automated, outsourced, or reimagined so time can be spent on priorities.
- Embrace asynchronous communication: Asynchronous communication can help employees maintain focus during complicated tasks. Instead of interrupting someone during their most productive time, organizations can encourage asynchronous communication when appropriate, avoiding interrupting employees when they may need to focus.
Is the 4-day workweek right for you?
Although the 40-hour, five-day workweek is nearly a century-old tradition, it may not be the most efficient choice for your organization. In today’s competitive job market, where retaining and attracting top talent is challenging, a shorter workweek could be an appealing benefit for job seekers and a competitive leverage for recruitment teams.