Can the four-day week work for your business?

The idea of a four-day week has been gaining traction in recent years. Many companies are considering the switch to a four-day week as a way to increase employee productivity and satisfaction. This shift could potentially have far-reaching effects on the economy, as well as on individual workers and their families.

A four-day week could lead to more free time for employees, allowing them to spend more time with family or engage in leisure activities. It could also lead to increased job satisfaction, as employees would have more control over their schedules and be able to take advantage of flexible working hours. Additionally, it could reduce stress and fatigue associated with long working hours, leading to higher levels of productivity and creativity in the workplace.

There are lots of articles in newspapers about the idea of the four-day week at the moment. This one grabbed our attention as being of particular interest as it is UK-centric and very pragmatic in its approach.

Having worked a four-day week for the last four years of my corporate career, I wanted to give my personal perspective.

What is a four-day week?

The four-day week is becoming increasingly popular in the corporate world. Many companies are finding that they can increase productivity and morale by giving employees an extra day off each week. There are a variety of different approaches to working a four-day week. Some companies offer a longer work day over four days, therefore crashing the same amount of hours into longer days, but then getting the day off every Friday for example. Other companies offer to let people work reduced hours for reduced pay. (This was what I took up in 2012). What has distinguished this latest study from all the others, is that employees have kept the same salary as if they were working their usual five-day week, but worked fewer hours.

The findings from the study

There are a few benefits of a four-day week. First, it allows employees to have more time to pursue outside interests and spend time with family. This can lead to happier and more productive employees. Additionally, it can cut down on costs associated with commuting and child care.

In the report that we attached earlier in the blog, you can see that 61 companies, involving 2900 employees, took part in the study between June and December of 2022. 56 of those companies are still continuing with the four day work week. 18 of them are making it a permanent change. Why is that? Well, over the course of the trial the companies saw an increase in productivity and performance. They also saw that stress, mental and physical health also declined, and reports of burnout declined by 71%!
According to a full report by 4 Day Work Week Global, covering the same study, 60% of the employees that took part said that they found it easier to combine work and personal responsibilities, and 62% said it benefitted their social life. Employee resignations dropped by 57%, and the companies themselves saw increased revenue by 35%.
However, it stated that one or two companies did have concerns about an increasing workload. Some employees would be working longer hours into the evenings to get tasks finished on time. Also there were concerns of the workplace becoming less convivial, saying that unstructured conversations surrounding ideas in creative companies were declining. One employee stated that socialising at work has lessened, and interrupting colleagues is “taboo” now. But managerial employees are said to be paying full attention to this and perhaps pairing the shorter work week with designated team days. This goes to show that companies really are focusing on the importance of job quality while creating a better work-life balance.

Is a four-day week the right approach for your business?

There are a few things to consider before making the switch. First, think about the type of business you have and whether or not a four-day week would be feasible. For example, if you have a retail business, you’ll need to be open five to seven days a week to meet customer demand, so would you need more employees to cover? However, if you have an office-based business, a four-day week might be a possibility.

Next, consider your employees and whether or not they would be on board with a four-day week. If you have employees with young children, a four-day week might be a great way to help them balance their work and home life. However, if you have employees who rely on a five-day week to make ends meet, a four-day week might not be ideal, if it will be at 80% of the current salary. If you are offering reduced hours and the current salary then this will not be an issue.

There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to whether or not the four-day week is right for your business. It’s important to weigh all of the factors before making a decision.

Just remember that all of this should be discussed with all employees. Employees need to feel part of the discussion and help co-create the way forward. This helps them feel part of the processes, rather than the process being done to them. They are also likely to think of things that management have overlooked. Communicate at all levels and keep communicating. Have a trial period and communicate and review.

A personal perspective

It is actually nothing new. I was working a four-day week in 2012. I have to say my experience was very similar to the experience of those people that are currently part of the experiment. While I was not lucky enough to keep my salary as many people are being offered now, I was lucky enough that my remuneration and holiday entitlement were still within very comfortable limits. Plus the health benefits far outweighed the loss in salary.
It was amazing the difference a day made. it does not seem like just an extra day added to the weekend would make such a massive difference, but it really, really did. That extra day to myself, doing chores, and getting some washing done, was all time well used, so then when it came to the weekend, and friends and family were also free, i did not have to carve out any of my time to do chores, I was already up to date and was able to have quality time with them.

Stress levels dropped drastically

I found that my stress levels dropped massively, and I no longer dreaded Mondays because felt like I had had enough time to properly relax and destress. I ate better because I had more time to plan and prepare. Exercise was easier because I had more time. Hobbies were back on the agenda and other things that give me lots of joy.
When I was at work I was happier, and therefore better able to focus. I was also more productive. There is nothing quite like a busy person with less time, to get a laser focus and get a job done quickly.
It took a little while for other employees to respect the time off, but as four-day weeks gained in popularity, they quickly understood the need to respect people’s time. I think times have moved on since then too and everyone respects that there is an overarching need for flexibility where possible.

I recommend it

Based on my experience and that of those I worked with, I would say it is totally worth it. I am sure, as the studies have shown, that I was more productive in four days than I was in five. There was flexibility on both sides and a lot of much happier employees that managed stress levels a lot better. A win-win in my opinion.