The modern office is changing. While arriving at an office building in business casual attire used to be the norm, employees are now opting to log on to their remote job from the comfort of their own homes throughout the world.
Some global companies are starting to test out four-day work weeks to see how it impacts their employees’ health, productivity, and engagement. While this model is fairly new, many business experts are already seeing it as the way of the future.
We’ve put together a guide to the pros and cons of a four-day workweek and considerations to make before implementing one in your office.
What is a 4-day workweek?
A four-day workweek means your workforce only works four days out of the week, usually Monday to Thursday. Some companies shorten the entire workweek altogether, allowing employees to still work eight-hour days for a total of 32 hours per week.
Other companies, however, have employees work 10 hours per day Monday through Thursday, which means employees still work 40 hours per week.
Some companies are also implementing shorter hours per week, but still spread out over five days. This could mean that employees work six hours per day instead of eight, totaling 30 per week.
What are the benefits of a 4-day workweek?
A four-day workweek helps employees feel more relaxed, motivated, and engaged. This means that the workforce is happier while also producing more, better-quality work.
Increased employee happiness
An extra weekend day makes employees happier. Not only does it reduce the amount of time per week they spend working to combat burnout, but it also gives employees more time to prioritize things that make them happy or that they need.
With more time to travel, complete to-do list items, spend time with family or friends, or do other things to prioritize their mental health, employees become happier at work and beyond. Setting employees up for success and making them feel valued should always be a top-priority goal for leaders.
Adelle Archer, Founder of Eterneva, said switching to a four-day workweek has increased employee satisfaction:
“In switching to a four-day work week, our employees are able to get an early start on their weekends, which frees time for recreational and personal activities, and even opens days that they are able to receive mental health and other personal services. This has led to a dramatic increase in our employee satisfaction, and our retention rates.”
Decreased business expenses
Unless your office is already fully remote, a four-day workweek helps lower your business overhead. Closing the office for one additional day per week saves you money on supplies and utilities.
Mike Chappell of FormsPal said a four-day workweek has a significant impact on cost. He said keeping an office has some unexpected costs that can be eased in part by dropping a day off the workweek:
“It's not uncommon for office bills, staff perks, commuter advantages, and competitive pay to add up to a significant sum. On top of that, add to your total expenses the cost of providing complimentary lunches, happy hours, and any other charges that help develop your company's culture.”
In companies that have switched to four-day workweeks, employees are typically more motivated to work and better at managing the time they are in the office. This means that though employees are logged on fewer hours per week, they’re using the time they are working more productively.
Robert Scott of Sell Land said employees produce better work when they have more time to rest:
"We have observed that our employees have been more productive and efficient when it comes to their work. Since they only now have four days to complete weekly deliverables, they have been wiser in using their time and can complete their tasks with a good or better quality. Moreover, since they are more rested when the week starts, we can also see their motivation to work improve.”
Fewer wasted hours
Americans waste about two hours of every eight-hour workday. The two biggest time wasters are surfing the internet and chatting with coworkers. When moving to a four-day workweek, employees are more engaged during the workday and less likely to waste time at work.
James Watts of Own the Grill said employee engagement has increased since his company adopted a four-day workweek:
“Everyone is far more productive and energetic than they used to be, which has seen our profit and engagement metrics go through the roof and it just feels like a much happier place to work than it was when we were adhering to the traditional Monday to Friday model. And at the end of the day, who could ask for, or want more than that?”
What are the disadvantages of a 4-day workweek?
Four-day workweeks are still relatively new, which means many businesses are trying them out for the first time. This leads to some confusion for office workers.
When one day of the workweek becomes unavailable, it is more difficult to schedule impromptu meetings or collaborative sessions. Sometimes, it’s even hard to schedule check-ins or one-on-one meetings without pushing your employees past their working hours.
There will be limited days to schedule training sessions, brainstorms, or other crucial meetings and still reasonably expect your employees to get their work done.
Depending on your business model and product, you will have to keep up with customer requests and demands. In those scenarios, a four-day workweek can actually add stress. If you shave a day off the week, your employees have one less day to meet their deadlines, which would actually mean more work and potential burnout.
Chris Gadek of AdQuick said business leaders need to consider how a four-day workweek will impact their offices:
“While implementing a 4-day workweek is an excellent strategy to help employees achieve a healthy work-life balance, our team members regularly work extended hours to keep up with customer demands. For this reason, we're concerned that such intensive workdays will offset their healthy balance for most of the week, leaving them feeling exhausted and leading to burnout. So, we may have to look into new systems and processes to improve our team members' time management and the efficiency at which they get their work done.”
Doesn’t work for every business or employee
Some industries are unable to adopt a four-day workweek. Businesses that provide services or time-sensitive products won’t be able to have their entire office closed one day of the workweek. These companies might still be interested in providing innovative perks but won’t be able to provide the same shortened workweeks that non-service jobs do.
Even at companies that adopt a four-day workweek, some employees will not enjoy that model. When Lily Wili of Everwallpaper implemented a four-day workweek where employees worked longer hours for four days in exchange for Friday off, some employees didn’t want to opt in.
“The schedule change becomes untenable with their family situations, schools, children's clubs, and activities,” she said. “In fact, while the employees were able to achieve great results in terms of output for the duration of the 4 longer days — over the course of a month or so, the team morale became increasingly worse. This meant we shifted the trial to an opt-in model which fared far better results.”
Less face time with colleagues
Some people enjoy the camaraderie of an office. Especially for remote teams, communication with your team makes you feel more integrated in your workplace. When you remove a day from the workweek, employees that enjoy going into the office or communicating virtually with their teams will start to feel isolated from their colleagues.
Which countries have a 4-day workweek?
Many countries throughout the globe have adopted some sort of shortened workweek. The following countries are some of the first or most comprehensive ones leading the charge.
From 2015 to 2019, Iceland introduced a 35- to 36-hour workweek. Many businesses noticed increased happiness and productivity within their teams, and the trial was deemed an “overwhelming success.” As a result, the vast majority of Iceland’s workforce is now working reduced hours.
Main takeaways: Iceland’s shortened-work week trial allowed employers to decide how they broke down hours. This could mean every Friday is a half day, or every single day Monday through Friday is shortened by one or two hours.
United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) became the first country in the world to formally cut the workweek back to four and a half days. In the UAE, the weekend officially starts midway on Friday and lasts until Monday morning.
This is also a shift from the UAE’s previous weekend — where Friday and Saturday were the weekend days — which was more aligned with the workweek in majority-Muslim countries.
Main takeaways: The shift in the workweek is part of an ongoing push to make the UAE a more attractive place for workers and residents. As many workers want to see a reduction in the workweek, the formal step in that direction is an advantage.
In 2022, Belgium began allowing employees to work four days per week so long as they work the same amount of hours as a five day work week. This means that Belgian workers spread their 40 hours over Monday through Thursday in exchange for a three-day weekend.
This is an optional program for employees who want to work more hours per day to have a longer weekend and whose employers allow them to participate.
Main takeaways: A four-day workweek doesn’t necessarily mean a reduction in hours. Some employees are willing to work longer days in exchange for a longer weekend.
Understand the needs of today's workforce
Businesses looking to provide new, unique benefits to their employees should start considering a four-day workweek. But that's not the only change today's talent wants to see in the workplace. Download our guide to learn what employees around the world value at work.
Or contact Velocity Global today to learn how we can help you attract and retain top talent across borders.