Is a 4 Day Week More Productive? The Pros and Cons of a 4 Day Week
While most businesses still operate on a five day working week system, some companies are starting to try out a four day week instead. Whether or not this will become a growing trend will probably depend on how effective a model it proves to be.
There are two different ways in which to introduce a four day week, one more controversial than the other. The more common way is compressed hours – an employee will carry out their usual hours, but have slightly longer days. This means that rather than spreading 35 hours over five days, staff members can fit these hours into four days. The other, more contentious, way of implementing a four day working week is to simply pay employees the same, but reduce their hours.
The issue with this second solution seems to be that the company will suffer with less hours worked. However, with the introduction of new technologies, employees can often achieve the same amount of work in less time. All while ensuring that the consumer doesn’t suffer.
Reducing Hours at Work
The idea of reducing the number of hours your employees work may be less radical than you think. In the nineteenth century, although Sunday was a day of rest, as many people went to church, the majority of workers would at least work Saturday mornings, if not the whole day.
Henry Ford, of the Ford Motor Company, was one of the first employers to introduce a 40 hour week for his workers, allowing them to have both Saturday and Sunday off from work. This allowed staff to spend more time with their families and friends, making them turn up to work more invigorated on Mondays.
Less altruistically, giving his staff Saturdays off also meant Ford’s workers had the opportunity to spend their downtime buying consumer products. Essentially, Ford believed that fewer working hours would help improve the economy, despite the fact that employees were not necessarily earning as much.
Benefits of a 4 Day Week
There are three main benefits of allowing staff to work a four day week, whether this is a reduction or compression of hours. These are an increase in productivity, improved staff engagement, and a better work-life balance for employees.
1. Increased Productivity
One of the biggest advantages of a four day work week is increased productivity. An employee who is overworked, putting in longer hours, will almost certainly be less productive than someone who works standard, or fewer, hours. This can be seen through the fact that some of the world’s most productive countries, such as Denmark, Norway and Germany, have an average work week of 27 hours.
Trials have shown that staff who do work a four day week not only maintain their productivity levels, they also have higher job satisfaction, and improvements were seen in areas like teamwork and company loyalty too. A company based in New Zealand found that stress levels in their employees, when the working week went down to four days, decreased from 45% to 38%.
2. Better Staff Engagement
In addition to productivity, staff engagement tends to be higher when you reduce the number of hours an employee works. Staff are happier and more committed to their jobs, and are less likely to need time off due to stress or illness.
A trial study was carried out in Sweden which meant nurses in a care home, although still working five days, only worked six hours a day. The results showed that less sick hours were logged, and the nurses had better health and mental wellbeing. In terms of engagement, 85% more activities were arranged for the patients in the nurses’ care.
3. Improved Work-Life Balance
A four day week can mean a better work-life balance for staff, for obvious reasons. Less time at work means more leisure time, which can be used to pursue hobbies and spend time with loved ones.
Not only this, but a reduced working week can open up opportunities to parents. Many people are not in employment due to childcare responsibilities, the majority of which are women. Having a four day week should promote a more equal workplace, allowing parents to better juggle childcare and work commitments.
Limitations of a 4 Day Week
As with just about everything, there are disadvantages to a four day week, alongside its various advantages. We’ve looked at the top three limitations below:
1. Less Company Hours
For some businesses, reduced hours isn’t a cost effective way of working. For instance, in a hospital setting, staff working fewer hours couldn’t be supported by technology alone – no chatbot would be able to replace a doctor or nurse! The reduced hour model only tends to be a good idea for office based businesses.
However, compressed hours may be an option for other organisations. Going back to the hospital example, shift work is incredibly common, which is essentially a compressed work week. This can come with its own limitations though, such as burnout.
2. Stress and Tiredness
If a business introduces compressed hours, rather than reduced hours, this can cause employees to become overly stressed and tired over time. They will be working longer days, and this can be draining, impacting productivity and engagement.
If you are looking to improve the overall work-life balance of your staff, the best thing to do is use technology to support them, allowing employees to work less hours. Each day of the four day week should be made up of the standard seven working hours.
3. Customer Satisfaction
There is a worry that if all your employees are working a four day week, your customers will suffer. If the whole office takes every Friday off, for example, customers won’t be able to speak to anyone over the phone until the following Monday. And if they have an urgent query, this would undoubtedly be frustrating.
There can be ways to overcome this issue though. Installing chatbots or other AI technology into your website will mean customers are able to get a response to most questions. Employing a secondary team to answer calls can work too. Alternatively, you could stagger holiday days, so half your staff have Friday off, while the other half have Monday off.