Recently the concept of the 4 day work week has been making headlines around the world as more and more companies transition their team into this model. The business world is fairly divided over the idea of the 4 day work week, arguing whether it is a beneficial change or whether old routines are better. But when surveyed, people in the workforce majoritize their preference for the 4 day work week. Marketplace.org found that 63% of the people surveyed said they would rather work ten hour shifts for four days than work eight hour days five days in a row.
Which Companies and Organizations Are Incorporating the 4 Day Work Week?
There are some notable companies who are following reduced days of work each week. Shakeshack started the same-pay 32 hour week in 2020; Toshiba began the 4 day 40 hour week the same year; Shopify follows a seasonal 4 day work week structure; companies like Fifth Tribe, Kickstarter, Praytell have either recently switched or announced plans for an upcoming 4 day work week model.
And the whole country of Iceland underwent a trial of 32 hours work weeks (without reduced pay) from 2015-2019, with approximately one percent of all workers included in the experiment. Even further, Norwegian company Maaemo established a permanent three day 45 hour work week to increase positivity due to the workers’ extra time off for themselves.
All Due to the Pandemic?
The shift has largely come about as a hot topic in 2021 based off of the switch to remote work during the Covid-19 pandemic and the slow settlement into the hybrid work model which offers employees the choice to divide their hours between in-office and remote--with this flexibility, workers are able to structure their time however they like, which can look like fewer longer hour days per week.
Andrew Barnes, the author of The 4 Day Week says the pandemic has been the turning factor that pushes workspaces away from following former schedules but he views this as a positive event due to the chance to readjust.
“The pandemic has created a moment for businesses to take stock and consider more radical reconstructions of the workplace. It is a time for experimentation and a reevaluation of what it means to be productive. By focusing on productivity and output rather than time spent in a workplace, the four-day week allows for better work-life balance, improved employee satisfaction, retention and mental health,” says Andrew Barnes, Co-Founder of 4 Day Week Global.
Liz Supinski, the Director of Data Science and Research at the Society for Human Resource Management also thinks that the transition to the 4 day work week is an immensely positive one, and something that has been worked up to for a long time.
“I think [the idea for the 4 day work week] was already out there in the zeitgeist, and I just think now more businesses are trying to be creative. The dislocation of COVID-19 has made a lot of organizations maybe more open to things they'd dismissed out of hand earlier. We’re better positioned to return to a workplace where not everybody is in the office every day,” says Liz Supinski, Director of Data Science and Research at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
In fact, a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management concluded that approximately one out of three employers already offer their workers a condensed work week; the number is just starting to increase more rapidly in 2021 as more companies realize the demand.
Since workers have learned how to structure their time in new, more flexible ways during the changed work models of 2020 and 2021 they are now realizing they don’t need or necessarily want to return to the rigid 9-5 work week of the past.
Dylan Arthur Garber, the Co-Founder of Audien Hearing, says that the 4 day work week offers new flexibility for workers, or rather an extension of the flexibility they experienced during remote work last year.
“Hybrid work models that allow for a restructuring of employees’ work days and hours are the move of the future due to the added versatility they provide. During the pandemic when people first began getting used to the idea of vastly different looking work days those working from home were able to structure their work around family, health, and personal situations but still figured out ways to get the same amount of work completed, even with allowing for breaks and gaps in the typical work day. Having seen their ability to get the same amount done in different time structures, people don’t want to return to a rigid work day if they can complete their work in fewer days of the week,” says Dylan Arthur Garber, Co-Founder of Audien Hearing.
The 4 day work week is largely being established due to the realization that it aids in increased productivity, not less work being completed. Daniel Seehoff, the CEO of Sophistilate mentions the survey Microsoft Japan completed to discover exactly that.
“A 4 day work week can actually benefit overall production for your company. Microsoft Japan did a quick study to see the effects and they came back with productivity up by almost 30%. Employees and team members were more accepting of getting work done in a timely fashion instead of wasting a few hours here and there throughout the week,” says Daniel Seehoff, CEO of Sophistiplate.
One reason why it forces productivity is because it places a time restriction on getting the same amount of tasks done. Employees under a 4 day work week understand the expectation on them to complete the same amount of work in a shorter amount of time, and are confident that they can offer this work model.
With this expectation, there will be some people who don’t like the switch or feel they work better in their previous work structure. While this may be due to not giving the new structure enough of a fair chance, workers are starting to truly understand how they work best after the upheaval of normal work patterns during the pandemic. Michael Jankie, the founder of The Natural Patch Co. says the 4 day work week is a good time to establish your company’s updated goals and ensure everyone is on the same page.
“The 4 day work week allows companies to create a team of people all focused on the same goals with the same range of beliefs; it is a great opportunity to step back and set new objectives. Be aware that some of your team may leave if they don’t feel they fit the changing attitude of the company, but this will make space for those who do. You can view this as a chance to start a new chapter. And with almost two thirds of condensed work week companies reporting no difficulty taking on new hires after making the switch, you can feel confident that the right people will find you,” says Michael Jankie, Founder of The Natural Patch Co.
With this opportunity for refocusing the company, Jeremy Gardner, CEO of skincare company MadeMan, further emphasizes how the shift can be seen as a positive moment for your business.
“During the turbulence of switching to a new working model, such as the 4 day work week, your company can center itself on your objectives. It gives you the space to set updated company goals for your team and customers while looking to forward growth. Getting your team on the same page about your future trajectory helps productivity,” says Jeremy Gardner, CEO of MadeMan.
Along with these benefits for the company that trickle down to the employees, the 4 day work week also helps shift the general office attitudes by placing an emphasis on productivity rather than time.
“The 4 day work week can make your employees work more efficiently because it promotes positive mentality shifts; working less days with the same productivity levels allows for a healthy shift in mindset from success equals hours worked to success actually equals strong productivity, like overall tasks completed,” says Justin Chan, Growth Manager of JuneShine.
Another extremely positive aspect of a reduced or compressed work week (depending on the structure your company chooses) is that it shows workers how much your company values their lives outside of work. According to a survey conducted by the Henley Business School, the leading resource for compressed work model statistics, companies that introduced 4 day work weeks received 15% more employee applications and appealed particularly to employees with children or caregiving responsibilities--a total of 71%.
“Companies that roll out 4 day work weeks or a similar structure are making waves right now and new hires are flocking to them, clamoring to receive positions. Why? The added flexibility of a compressed week stands out to people as a caring gesture; they factor that a company that pushes to offer workers more time off must prioritize their mental health and personal lives,” says Jeremy Goldstein, CEO of Navitar.
People are flocking to work for condensed work week companies and those lucky enough to be hired by these businesses are experiencing higher work morale.
“The 4 day work week is still a fairly new concept in the trial period for many companies but already the statistics speak for themselves. Boosted employee morale is one of the greatest benefits: the Henley Business School found that 78% of workers in this model were happier, 70% felt less stressed, and 62% were healthier. You really can’t compete with that data,” says Isaiah Henry, CEO of Seabreeze Management.
This new model also opens up a conversation between team members about how to increase productivity, since the basis behind the idea of reducing hours is still promoting the same or higher productivity.
“One way that employees can be more efficient under a 4 day work week is by placing the question on them of how they think they can be more productive in order to complete the same amount of work in less time/less days. This can be viewed as a really great chance for your company to enter into an open discussion between leaders and team members on where to cut out inefficient habits such as too much workplace chatter. By asking employees where they think they can improve for the sake of the new work model, each person can make changes that work best for them individually,” says Matthew Mundt, Founder and CEO of Hug Sleep.
Jason Sherman, the founder of TapRM points out that maybe the best excuse for a shorter work week is that times have been consistently changing but work structures haven’t largely been modified.
“The 40 hour work week was popularized by Henry Ford almost 100 years ago because he found that cutting hours down to 40 a week boosted his team’s productivity. We have all still been following this model that hasn’t vastly changed in almost a century! If cutting back hours boosted productivity in the 1920’s, it stands to say that the same would be true today. I think the 4 day work week better reflects current society’s needs and desires in 2021 and beyond,” says Jason Sherman, Founder of TapRm.
After hearing from why top business owners believe the 4 day work week makes employees work more efficiently, it is hard to come up with a strong list of reasons why your company wouldn’t want to give it a try. Hopefully their expertise inspires you to consider transitioning your company’s work model into a more flexible alternative.