Could a 4-Day Workweek be the Future of Work?

4 day work week

Have you heard the latest workplace talk? Gather around the water cooler, and you’ll hear the rumors swirling that a 4-day work week may soon be a reality.

Worldwide, AI technology continues to disrupt every facet of every industry. Soon, we will likely see an increase in remote and more flexible work schedules, including a 4-day workweek.
As businesses integrate the advantages of new technologies with their employees, a 4-day workweek is likely to take hold this century.

A 4-day workweek will undoubtedly boost employee satisfaction, company loyalty and teamwork and decrease stress levels. In addition, reducing employees’ work schedules to four days a week shouldn’t affect their productivity or company outcomes.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits and disadvantages of a 4-day workweek.

What is a 4-Day Workweek?

You may already know someone who works shortened hours while working full-time over 35 hours over four days. However, a 4-day workweek isn’t a compressed work schedule; instead, it reduces hours, meaning the employee would work about 28 hours over four days and enjoy a 3-day weekend.

A 4-day work week may seem radical, but the number of hours worked within a typical workweek has slowly reduced since the late 19th Century. For example, in 1890, the United States government calculated that a full-time manufacturing plant employee worked approximately 100 hours a week. By the middle of the 20th Century, manufacturing employees worked only 40 hours weekly. Reducing our current work week to 28 hours is certainly not as extreme.

What are the Benefits of a 4-Day Workweek?

A 4-day workweek is a new concept, mainly due to recent technological advancements. However, some companies are already trying out the idea with encouraging results for employers and employees.

Increased Productivity

Sanford University conducted a comprehensive examination between relationship and productivity, revealing a direct connection between the two factors. Employees who feel overworked are less productive than those working an average or typical week.

Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand-based company completed a trial study of a 4- day workweek, finding employees maintained the same level of productivity while showing improvements in teamwork, job satisfaction, company loyalty and work/life balance. Employees were also found to experience less stress.

The results from this study are not surprising when you consider that some of the most productive countries in the world, like Denmark, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany, work on average around 27 hours a week. In contrast, Japan, notorious for overworking employees, ranks only 20th out of 35 countries in productivity.

An Equal Workplace

A 4-day workweek will more easily facilitate an equal workplace by enabling employees to spend better time with their families and juggle childcare and work commitments more easily.

Better Employee Engagement

A 4-day workweek can result in happier and more committed employees who are less likely to be stressed or take sick leave due to having more time to recover. Consequently, they will return to work ready to tackle new challenges.

A Smaller Carbon Footprint

Countries with shorter working hours commonly have smaller carbon footprints, so reducing the workweek from five to four days could also benefit the environment. Additionally, shortening the working week implies that employees won’t need to commute as much as large office buildings will only be used four days a week.

What are the Disadvantages of a 4-Day Workweek?

While there are undoubtedly many benefits to a 4-day workweek, there are also some disadvantages. Implementing a 4-day workweek can be difficult as it requires the proper support, technology, and workplace culture. In addition, all new changes face challenges and disadvantages that are unavoidable.

Customer Satisfaction

A study in Utah revealed some excellent environmental results and employee and employer benefits, which unfortunately ended due to poor customer satisfaction. In addition, customers were not happy as they could not access necessary government facilities due to offices being closed on a Friday.

Using technology, like chatbots and AI-powered websites may solve issues related to customer satisfaction as they would provide customers with another avenue of support other than office-based staff members.

The Wrong Approach

Many people mistake the concept of a 4-day workweek with compressed hours. Employees who are still expected to work 35 hours across four days will show decreased productivity levels. Unfortunately, this can also impact employees’ engagement, work-life balance, and overall happiness. A 4-day workweek should consist of standard 7-hour workdays to achieve the desired effects.

Final Thoughts

Although we are not quite ready, there may soon come a day when technology, particularly AI, surpasses the abilities of human employees. At that time, we will need to make some critical decisions regarding the future of work and how best to protect and promote the well-being of human employees. For example, a 4-day workweek is a conceivable option as technology would allow a business to continue as usual. And at the same time, humans can still have meaningful careers with a better work/life balance.

At ALIGN, we always look at future trends and possibilities that will affect the workforce. So, give us a call to discuss how we can assist you with your recruitment needs.

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