From Japan to Iceland, countries all over the world are investigating the benefits of the four-day work week for improving employee well-being and productivity.
In a study published by Autonomy, researchers tracked 2,500 employees who reduced their work week to 35 or 36 hours, but not their pay. The study showed that worker well-being dramatically increased across numerous indicators, including health and work-life balance. Productivity remained the same or improved, despite fewer hours.
At Microsoft Japan, employees enjoyed a trial of four-day work weeks throughout the summer months for the same salary. In turn, the company had a productivity boost of 40 percent and benefits like lower energy and supply costs.
Clearly, the four-day work week can prove effective and beneficial. It may seem impossible for your business, however, given that many employees work over 40 hours a week and take few vacations.
The four-day work week in your business
Evidence is mounting for the benefits of the four-day work week across the globe. Many companies are experimenting with compressed schedules and reduced working hours to see how it compares.
The five-day work week is a century-long tradition, however, so many companies are slow to adopt the compressed schedule. This doesn’t take into consideration how much time is wasted during the day and how burnout can have a negative impact on productivity overall.
If you’re considering this for your business, the first step is to survey your team and get their feedback as to whether they are interested — this is not for everyone.
Happy employees are productive employees
While the benefits of the shortened work week are still in question, there’s a clear benefit for work-life balance. As evidenced by countries that adopted or experimented with a four-day work week, fewer hours doesn’t mean less work output.
In fact, the result was the opposite. Employees worked fewer hours, but reported better well-being and work-life balance and showed better productivity. The companies also benefited from high production and low operational costs.
During these studies, employees reported high levels of happiness because of better balance and time in their personal lives. Employees were able to spend more time with family or friends, enjoy their hobbies or get back to exercising, all of which boosted their satisfaction and productivity.
Still considering this for your business? Ask yourself the simple question — is work-life balance an important value for your business?
Addressing the realities of the four-day work week
A compressed work week may be the dream of employees, but there are tradeoffs that both the employer and the employee must understand.
Scheduling can be challenging with a four-day work week. Even more so if employees are taking scheduled time off or are out sick. Because everyone is working fewer hours, reassigning a workload from an absent employee can be difficult. But let’s face it, there’s much better technology today to overcome that obstacle.
Shifts can create problems as well, especially if they overlap and lead to added labor dollars. In addition, companies may struggle to fill certain shifts during their operational week.
Ultimately, however, the benefits far outweigh the challenges. Scheduling may take more effort and forecasting, but it can be planned just like a five-day work week.
For companies looking to reduce the 40-hour work week into four 10-hour days, they may not see the benefits of a shortened work week. 10-hour days can be grueling, and employees are more likely to burn out or have conflicts with personal obligations, such as childcare.
Another consideration is that the four-day work week is only feasible for certain careers, especially in the higher income brackets. Positions that don’t pay a salary that compensates for fewer hours, or companies that need to be available to the public 24/7, may not reap the benefits of a four-day work week.
Does your business support a team for which this structure will work?
Is the four-day work week better?
Most employees would love an extra day off each week. Employers worry about the costs, especially if the hours are reduced and the pay stays the same, and the supervision of employees.
However, the results are clear. Employees with a four-day work week and the same pay are happier and more productive. The theory behind this is that employees are happy to work for a company that values their contributions and time. So, they’re encouraged and empowered to put in extra effort into their work.
Cutting back on employee days and hours while paying them the same may be intimidating to employers. If the company and career-type fit, however, a shortened work week can prove beneficial for boosting employee morale, productivity and satisfaction.