Nine to five, Monday to Friday. That’s the model we’ve used for more than a hundred years now.
Back in 1908, the concept of a five-day working week with two days of rest at the end became commonplace. Not long after that, Henry Ford established the 40 hour working week. He found that having employees work more hours yielded only a small increase in productivity, and that letting them rest was much better for performance.
At every stage of the working week change, the reasoning behind it stayed the same: Productivity, health and wellbeing for employees. Employers quickly realised that the health of their workers impacted the results of their business. Although stakeholders initially criticised the changes, the benefits soon silenced them.
Nowadays, there’s a lot of buzz around the four-day working week. Can you improve productivity and employee wellbeing with one less working day?
Let’s explore whether you should adopt a four-day working week, starting with a few of the myths floating around.
Misconceptions about working 4 days a week
In the Icelandic trial, workers experienced significant increases in wellbeing and work-life balance, while existing levels of service provision and productivity were maintained or improved. Similarly in Sweden, reducing working hours resulted in less sick leave and higher levels of productivity.
But amongst the positivity, there’s still an understandable amount of scepticism from employers. Let’s debunk a few of the myths that might hold employers back.
1. “All you need to do is cut the hours.”
"Some firms look at the research that if you reduce work-time you can increase productivity. Therefore they think that if they reduce working hours by 20 percent and do nothing else, that magically their productivity is going to go up.” - Joe O'Connor, global pilot programme manager, Four Day Week global campaign.
Companies running trials find that cutting hours leads to higher productivity. So all employers need to do is reduce their hours, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
The four-day working week requires making effective use of time and eliminating distractions. It’s about changing workplace practices, becoming more efficient, and empowering staff to come up with solutions, according to O’Connor.
2. “It’s bad for business.”
Surely, one less day of trading means lost business. Doesn’t it?
This isn’t entirely true. The four-day working week doesn’t have set in stone rules like ‘You must take Fridays off.’ In fact, many companies space out the days that staff take off, so there’s always staff available during normal business hours.
3. “Fewer hours means more stress for employees.”
Employee burnout is on the rise as we adjust to post-pandemic working. Wouldn’t working fewer hours just mount the stress for employees further? Well, no, according to research.
The founder of Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand based company that trialled the four-day working week, reported that they saw a 27 percent decrease in employee stress and a 45 percent increase in work-life balance. The extra time given to rest and recuperation allowed employees to cope with their work stresses better. Subsequently, their wellbeing improved.
It’s important to see beyond the myths and look at what successful companies are doing.
Let's take a closer look at the advantages of a shorter working week.
What are the advantages of only working four days a week?
There have been many positive four-day working week trials across the globe.
So what are the top advantages that employers can enjoy from allowing their employees to cut a day out of their week?
1. Increased employee productivity
For businesses, productivity is a crucial factor to consider.
Perpetual Guardian claimed that they saw a 20 percent increase in productivity during their trial.
2. Lower costs
One less day a week means lower operating costs. As an employer, you won't have to keep your offices open as much as usual.
In fact, two-thirds (66 percent) of employers that trialled a four-day working week reported a reduction in their running costs.
For your employees, this means less money spent on commuting, food, and other expenses during their working day.
3. Reduced carbon footprint
According to a recent report, switching to a four-day working week without loss of pay could shrink the UK’s carbon footprint by 127 million tonnes per year by 2025.
Acting on environmental issues remains a high priority for organisations. Cutting down on the working week is a powerful way to influence your carbon footprint for the better.
In the time of The Great Resignation, companies must increase employee engagement, be proactive about wellness, and lower company costs.
Four the better
So, should you consider a four-day working week?
The model complements wellbeing initiative goals and increases employees’ output. You’d think it would be a no-brainer. But, while we are seeing more and more companies experiment with reducing their working hours, it comes down to what’s best for your organisation.
Visit our resources for more information on how to improve your commitment to wellbeing.