In Favor of the Four Day Workweek

One of the most popular ideas to come out of the pandemic era is the 4-day workweek. As workers were forced to stay home for months while the pandemic gripped the world, there was a shift in how we view how we work.

            Employers implemented new concepts about how and when work could get done, and employees adapted to the challenges and demands. The results showed that not only could the work get done efficiently, but also that the idea of being strapped to a desk for 8 to 10 hours a day was antiquated and did nothing to grow the bottom line.

            In trying to better understand how folks work and how productivity is affected by modifications to work style, 61 companies in Great Britain participated in a study last year by allowing their employees to work four days a week instead of five while keeping the same weekly pay. 2,900 workers were involved in the study that ran from June to December of last year.

            The results were overwhelmingly favorable for employees and their employers. Of those who participated, 56 of the 61 companies said they would continue with the 4-day week after the pilot program ended. Only three of those companies that participated said they would abandon the 4-day week in favor of the legacy 5-day work week.

            According to the study, revenue remained steady on average for the companies while attrition of employees dropped dramatically. Revenue actually rose by 1.4% on average, and the study’s authors concluded that there was healthy growth for participating companies.

            The companies varied in their approaches to the 4-day week; some used a Friday-off model, others used “staggered” and “decentralized” models that resulted in an overall reduction in weekly hours. In all cases, pay structures remained unchanged.

            Employees reported that following the implementation of the shortened week, 39% were less-stressed, and 71% self-reported reduced levels of burnout. There were corresponding reductions in anxiety, fatigue, and sleep disorders. Mental and physical health of workers improved. Each of these factors would likely correlate to improved production at work.

            Employees reported being more satisfied with their household finances, relationships, and time management. 62% said their social lives improved. As a result, 15% of employees said that no amount of money would ever induce them to go back to a five-day schedule again.

            Dr. Juliet Schor, a sociology professor at Boston College, has been studying shorter workweeks for years. Her Ted Talk has received hundreds of thousands of views. Her support for the shorter week is based on the fact that the four-day workweek concept is one that benefits workers but not at the expense of employers. In fact multiple worldwide studies have shown that it benefits workers, companies, societies, and even has a positive impact on climate.

            Employers that embrace the idea have seen lower turnover and higher-quality applicant pools. Sick-time usage has decreased and customers report higher-quality service. Lower-stressed, happier workers correlate to lower incidences of misconduct, discrimination, and under-performance.

            Dr. Schor has said that employees don’t do less work in a 4-day week. Instead they simply reorganize and prioritize and eliminate those tasks that are unproductive, like unnecessary meetings and phone calls.

            Making these changes may take time. But the results of the initial studies are in, and they are resoundingly favorable.

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