The Benefits and Disadvantages of A 4-Day Workweek

FT Contributor
A man who works 4 days a week, working at his laptop in the office.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

When you think about a typical work week, you probably think of a nine to five job that requires you to be in an office Monday through Friday. In today’s economy, those hours are changing. Many companies have adopted remote work, flexible scheduling, and even four-day work weeks.

Cutting the workweek by one day may not seem like it has a significant impact, but studies show that after eliminating one day from the workload, employees are more energized and overall feel happier with their work-life balance. A boost in productivity is another benefit that companies notice. One company in Japan shifted its schedule and noticed a 40% spike in productivity overall.

If you’re wondering whether your company would benefit from a four-day workweek, this guide will explain the pros and cons of switching to that schedule.

The Concept Behind the Four-Day Workweek

With a four-day workweek, employees are still expected to work 40 hours in a week. That means that for four days, employees are tasked with working 10 hours each day. However, there are a few ways to split up the workweek that are more common than others.

For example, companies either choose to do four 10-hour shifts for a total of 40 hours a week or employees  take a pay-cut and reduce their hours to 32 a week, working four 8-hour shifts. In this case, the workweek is typically Monday through Thursday — leaving employees with an eternal three day weekend.

Some companies that observe a four day workweek will allow their employees to choose the day they want to have off, while others will set a specific day — like Wednesday — as the day everyone has off. It depends on the nature of the business.

Benefits of a Four-Day Workweek

Companies that offer a four-day workweek typically see the following benefits:

  • Frees up personal time: With an additional day off each week, employees of a company have more time to do what they please, helping to reduce stress.
  • Better for the environment: Four-day work weeks mean one less day of commuting costs and emissions.
  • Increases productivity: When employees return to work after an extended break, they’re more likely to be productive and use the hours that they are in-office wisely.
  • Improves the overall workplace: When employees are well-rested and recharged, they’re more likely to come to work in a better mood, creating a more positive environment for everyone.

Who Benefits From a Four-Day Workweek?

Historically, Americans have been overworked due to a lack of labor laws. President Nixon predicted that we would one day reach a point where we only work four days a week — we’re finally there.

Four-day work weeks can benefit a variety of employees from all walks of life, including:

  • New parents with no childcare.
  • The elderly who are getting ready to retire.
  • Those with disabilities.
  • Those in roles that require travel.
  • Freelance workers.
  • Employees with second homes.
  • Employees tasked with caring for a sick family member.
  • Interns or those employees seeking higher education.
  • Employees with a long commute.

Disadvantages of a Four-Day Workweek

While a four-day workweek may seem all positive, there are a few cons to doing so. Some companies that offer a four-day workweek may find the following disadvantages:

  • Four-day work weeks don’t work for every business. Certain companies may be unable to operate on a four-day work week, especially those who have sales or support staff that need to be available to companies who work nine to five, Monday through Friday.
  • 10-hour days can be grueling: While most employees may come to work energized and refreshed after a three-day weekend, some may find it difficult to focus on work for 10-hours a day, depending on the industry.
  • It may be unfair: In some cases, a company may only offer four-day workweeks to certain employees. This could cause these workers to feel pressure to work on their days off when the rest of the company is carrying on without them.

Four-Day Workweek as a Recruitment Tool

A flexible schedule is one of the many perks people may look for when job hunting. Advertising a four-day workweek could allow your company to attract top talent. If you offer a four-day workweek, be sure to include that in any job listings that you have, as well as on the “About” page of your website so candidates are aware that is one of the benefits offered by your company.

Should You Implement the Four-Day Workweek?

Ultimately, it is up to you whether or not to implement the four-day workweek in your business. Consider the type of business you are running to understand whether or not a four-day week is feasible. Some companies won’t do well only working four days a week, as it is impractical for them when it comes to earning a profit. The types of companies that wouldn’t benefit from a four-day workweek include:

  • Some retailers.
  • Catering companies — business is usually higher on the weekends.
  • Hotels.
  • Restaurants.
  • Medical offices and hospitals.
  • Grocery stores.
  • Pharmacies.
  • Schools.

However, if you are in a business that allows flexible schedules, then consider a four-day workweek for the future. For example, a digital marketing professional, or author may be able to capitalize on a four day work week, as their job can be done with little-to-no urgency.

While a four-day workweek may not be the answer for every company, it could be a benefit worth offering to your employees. Consider the pros and cons of a four-day workweek before making the switch official. Doing so could allow you to reap more of the pros than the cons, depending on your business structure.

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