Reduced hours lead to increased productivity and overall employee happiness.
We blame a rough start on Mondays and rejoice for Fridays. We are exhausted and, at times, burned out with the demands of 40-hour, five-day workweeks.
Even before the past three disruptive years, forward-thinking, innovative businesses have sought to introduce flexible work arrangements to drive employee satisfaction and engagement. Those arrangements have included no-meeting days, remote work, and shorter workweeks. Leading the movement for a reduced workweek is 4 Day Week Global, a nonprofit group that assists businesses in piloting a shift from 40-hour to 32-hour workweeks while maintaining the same pay and benefits in exchange for workers producing the same results.
In September, 4 Day Week Global presented survey results from the midpoint in its UK pilot program, which started in June 2022 and includes 70 companies. Nearly 90 percent of 41 companies responded that the four-day week works well for them. Almost half said business productivity has improved either slightly or significantly, while another 46 percent said they have maintained the same level of productivity.
The vast majority reported they are likely or extremely likely to consider retaining the four-day workweek policy after the trial period ends. In addition to the UK pilot, 4 Day Week Global is conducting trials in the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.
However, companies should take caution to monitor the effect on all employees. A 2021 study of the four-day workweek in New Zealand-based businesses found that while workers enjoyed the change, it also amplified pressures on managers to monitor their teams' productivity and performance. And some employees reported they took fewer and shorter breaks in their workdays and needed the added day off to recover from the demanding week.
In a 2019 whitepaper, 4 Day Week Global offers recommendations for companies interested in piloting a four-day workweek:
- Consider what HR and legal policies you need to comply with in your locality.
- Understand which problems you want to remedy and what success looks like.
- Prepare resources for managers and employees to clarify how behaviors and processes will change.
- Individualize productivity measures for different staff and parts of the business.
- Plan for situations when you may need to pause the effort—for example, during seasonal demands or huge deliverables.
- Listen to and empower employees while designing and setting up the initiative.