I have never subscribed to the idea that employees need to be shackled to a desk or a workspace eight hours a day, five days a week. I think employees, particularly in jobs that require skill, thoughtfulness, or professional opinion, should take as much time as it takes to get the job done regardless of hours or days spent doing it. It has never made sense to me to have an employee sitting around watching the clock.
Clock-watching leads to resentment, frustration, and lack of productivity. Those are not characteristics you would typically look for when making your next hiring decision.
The idea of giving employees space not only to do their work but also to spend time doing activities that enrich their lives makes sense to me. It is that enrichment that can lead to better ideas at work, more productivity, and general satisfaction with life. And those are characteristics that an employer would value in a workforce.
What is behind the 4-day workweek? Well, the idea falters if we try to jam five days of work into four hours of work. What you wind up with is resentful and exhausted employees. And if the employer believes that eliminating twenty percent of the work week should result in a twenty percent reduction in pay, then the idea is dead on arrival.
According to recent news reports, the idea was tried out in Iceland, and the results were overwhelmingly positive. According to the Iceland experiment, as reported in the news, those employees who moved from a 5-day, 40-hour workweek to a 4-day, 35-hour workweek experienced less stress, better health, and improved work-life balance. As a result, 86 percent of the country’s workforce now can work a 4-day week for the same pay.
The payoff comes in terms of overall productivity.
According to the study, productivity of workers either remained the same or improved in most workplaces.
In gaining another day of leisure time during the week, employees reported that they could attend to other interests and needs like hobbies, family time, and running errands which made them less-stressed and feeling like their lives were fuller.
Another benefit of the 4-day workweek reportedly helps society as a whole. With fewer folks commuting to work and using the energy associated with performing work, the release of carbon into the environment necessarily declines. For those who believe in climate change (*raises hand*), this can be an important development in slowing the progress of global warming.
Here’s the point: in my career as an advocate for employees, but also for profitable businesses, I have found that satisfied workers are the best workers. Those employees who feel a sense of control over the work that they do and how they do it feel more valued and tend to produce at a greater capacity than those who do not.
The majority of workers in this country do not make high five-figure or six-figure incomes. Yet, many employees remain deeply satisfied with their work. Often that comes from the provision of benefits that recognize value and promote overall health and well-being. A four-day workweek seems to be a progressive idea that improves lives without any real negative downsides. I would anticipate the idea to begin getting traction as we return to work after COVID.