The Four-Day Workweek: Is it the Future of Work or a Recipe for Disaster?
The four-day workweek, also known as the shorter workweek, is a trend that has gained some popularity in recent years. The idea behind the shorter workweek is to reduce the number of days employees are required to work in a week while still maintaining productivity. The goal is to improve work-life balance for employees and potentially increase productivity by allowing them more time outside of work to pursue their personal interests and take care of their physical and mental well-being.
The concept of the four-day workweek has been around for decades, but it gained a lot of momentum during the Covid-19 pandemic when remote work became more widespread. The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of work-life balance and class divisions around work, contributing to the push for the four-day workweek.
Several studies and experiments have been conducted on the four-day workweek, and the results have been mixed. Some studies have found that a shorter workweek can lead to increased productivity and improved employee work-life balance. In contrast, others have found that it can be challenging to maintain productivity and may not be suitable for all employees or industries.
One study by Henley Business School in the UK found that 78% of employees at companies that adopted a four-day workweek were happier, 70% were less stressed, and 62% took fewer days off due to illness. The study also found that 63% of employers said that providing a four-day working week helped them to attract and retain talent. Another study by Perpetual Guardian in New Zealand found that the four-day workweek did not significantly impact productivity, but employees reported feeling less stressed and more able to achieve a better work-life balance.
There are also potential benefits to the four-day workweek in terms of the environment. A study by the UK Department for Transport found that UK employees estimate they would drive 557.8 million fewer miles per week on average if they worked a four-day week, leading to fewer transportation emissions.
The four-day workweek has been supported by some politicians and is being experimented with by a number of companies, including prominent tech firms. In the UK, Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer has expressed support for the four-day workweek, and in New Zealand, the Green Party has included the four-day workweek in its election platform. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has also expressed support for the four-day workweek in the US.
Several tech companies have also experimented with the four-day workweek, with varying results. For example, Microsoft Japan implemented a four-day workweek in August 2019 and saw a 40% increase in productivity as well as a decrease in electricity and paper usage. Similarly, a tech company in Wales called Monzo saw a 20% increase in productivity and a decrease in staff turnover after implementing a four-day workweek.
On the other hand, some tech companies have found that the four-day workweek is not a good fit for their business. Alter Agents, a market research company based in Los Angeles, implemented a four-day workweek and found that employee health and mental health declined. The CEO of Alter Agents stated that the goal of the four-day workweek was to make employees' lives easier, but it ended up complicating things instead.
It's important to note that the four-day workweek may not suit every company or every employee. It's vital for companies to carefully consider whether the four-day workweek is a good fit for their employees and business needs before implementing it. Factors to consider may include the company's specific needs, the type of work being performed, and the potential impact on productivity and employee well-being.
In addition, implementing the four-day workweek may require a shift in mindset for employees and companies. It may be necessary to reevaluate how work is organized and to embrace new ways of working that are more efficient and allow for a shorter workweek. While the four-day workweek has shown promise in some cases, it's vital for companies to carefully consider whether it is the right fit for their business and employees before implementing it.