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July 20, 2022

Does a Four-Day Workweek Work?

Natalie Benfell


©© GettyImages/SeiyaTabuch

I'm sitting here in the middle of a heatwave in Britain. And I can't help but look out of the window and think, "Oh I wish I could make the most out of this sun." It's probably a thought that many of us have had over these past few weeks. So what's stopping us?

Well, it's a Friday for one. So instead of slapping on sunscreen and sipping my Pimm's in a sunny beer garden, I'm chained to my laptop. Just praying that my cooling fan doesn't run up my energy bill too much this month!

But what if we weren't constrained to the traditional Monday to Friday grind? What if we had the option of extending our weekends and making the most out of sunny days like these? What if... we had a four-day workweek? And still got paid the same?

Four-Day Workweek on Trial

And it's no daydream, either. In June this year, the nonprofit organization, "4 Day Week Global" launched a six-month pilot program trialing a four-day workweek.

The hope is that organizations can use this study, based on more than 3,300 workers at 70 British companies, to build a business case around reducing workdays. Crucially, while still maintaining their employees' current salaries.

As the trial continues, and employees across the country anxiously await the results, we asked the Mind Tools team their views on the subject. It sparked a keen debate around the virtual office. Here's what our team had to say:

Four-Day Workweek: The Pros

Since the pandemic, we've already seen a huge shift in the way people work, with many organizations adopting a hybrid working model. So what benefits do MT managers see in taking the next step, to a four-day workweek?

Head of Acquisition, Claire Minnis, said, "It fits in more with modern life. We don't live or work the same way as we used to, so why not change things?"

Head of Product, Kirsten Wilson agreed, highlighting the role technology plays in the way we work. She said, "Improved technologies mean that a five-day week seems unrelated to the needs of the modern workforce."

One of the obvious upsides of a four-day workweek is increased free time, time that people can spend doing what they value most. The resulting boost in people's overall wellbeing helps to create a happier workforce. Unlocking all the benefits that spring from that.

MT editor and writer, Jonathan Hancock is on board. He said, "I like the idea of having longer weekends. I think it would help people to relax more fully, spend more time with family and friends. They could travel further or even just spread their chores over three days rather than two!"

Gain a More Focused, More Productive Workforce

The opportunity to really get a mental break was another benefit of the four-day workweek for campaign marketing manager Abi Radford.

She said, "Employees could spend more time relaxing at weekends, with the ability to actually switch off from work before Monday comes round again."

"OK, what's in it for us?", say employers. MT's client experience manager Austin Wolf thinks giving people more time to recharge would improve organizational success. He said, "It would lead to a greater work-life balance, as well as higher productivity during the four days of work."

Why? Well, Jonathan Hancock offered, "People would be more focused and strategic during their working week. They would make sure they got everything done to a high standard, in less time."

Four-Day Workweek: The Cons

Although there are many benefits to a four-day week, any change to working patterns comes with a fair number of challenges. Not least of all keeping it cost-effective.

A lot of organizations panic at the idea of a four-day workweek, fearing they'll be less profitable with the loss of working hours. They, not unreasonably, reason that they may have to find ways to cut costs. Maybe reducing office space or closing the office on days when most employees are off.

But it's not just the loss of potential profits that is cause for concern. Some Mind Tools employees were uneasy about a lack of alignment when working with others.

Client experience partner Lee Murphy said, "It limits availability for working with clients and colleagues," while account director Gillian Reid added, "Not being aligned to the majority could cause major disruption to workflow and hamper getting projects over the line. "

Claire Minnis raised logistical questions that organizations would have to solve ahead of making these changes. She said, "Which day do you decide to have off? Do you all have the same one off? Can it be flexible in regards to which day is taken?"

But product manager Sean Brown believed the four-day workweek could work, as long as organizations are flexible. He said, "Our clients or consumers may not be on a four-day week so we need to ensure that we can still cover client/consumer needs."

Time for Change, for Some

Another major concern that surfaced was a lack of time to do the job. People and culture business partner Emily Moore said, "Everyone already says they are so busy, so how could we do what we do in four days?"

While Abi Radford said, "There's the danger that we keep the same workloads and amount of meetings and just squish them into four days, which could result in working excessive hours."

As far as Jonathan Hancock was concerned, where there's a problem, there's a solution. But while challenges can be overcome with a will and a creative approach, the four-day workweek would not work for everyone.

He said, "Any organization could make it work, by being clever about staffing patterns. They'd have to show creativity in recruitment and consult closely with their staff. But not all will decide that it's right for them. And many may be better off exploring different types of flexible working."

Are you for or against a four-day workweek? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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2 comments on “Does a Four-Day Workweek Work?”

  1. I am for and currently work a four-day workweek. It works out great for me because 1) I was already working more than eight hours per day; 2) the extra day off allows me to actually have and enjoy a day off because the other days are spent doing tasks that could not be done during the week; 3) it also allows me to be available to others that are on the West Coast; and 4) I believe it is also one of many employment recruitment/retention methods.

    1. Thanks for sharing your positive experience of the four-day week Kerwin.

      I am sure many would agree with you.

      Mind Tools Coach

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