Millions of us have been working five days a week for our entire careers, clocking in on a sleepy Monday and jetting out of the office at 4:55 pm on Friday. What if that all changed? What if… there was no Friday at all?
Many salaried workers, especially those from the millennial and Gen Z generations, have been rallying for the introduction of a four-day, 10 hr/day workweek since they entered the workforce. It’s long been dismissed as impractical and pointless, on the basis that four longer days take the same amount of energy as five shorter days.
However, the pandemic showed that corporations are more flexible than we expected through the shift to remote work, and such a “revolution” can take place in as little as a month. So, some folks in the United Kingdom decided to put the four-day workweek to the test.
About 3,000 employees from 61 companies took part in a pilot test study that shifted a standard 5-day 8-hour week to a 4-day 10-hour week. While the hours are the exact same, the idea is the three consecutive days employees will have off will ultimately benefit their mental health, heal burnout, and improve work/life balance.
Cynics have long argued that 10 hour workdays will result in more burnout, and the removal of the fifth day could lead to tight deadline crunches. So, what did the study say?
This study was shockingly conclusive. Out of the 61 companies that participated in the trial, only three stuck to the five day workweek afterwards. 40 moved forward with some sort of integration of a four-day week, and 18 immediately committed to the new schedule. So, why did almost every organization feel confident about its practicality?
The answer doesn’t lie within the organization’s success as much as the people’s success. While company revenue was essentially the same over the period, employees reported higher levels of happiness & satisfaction with their jobs, along with lower levels of burnout. This derives from extra sleep, lower stress, and more time on the three-day weekend to pursue hobbies and “do what you want”. That’s something anyone can relate to.
Along with the doing-what-you-want, there’s also the doing-what-you-need – anecdotes have cropped up of fathers getting more time to care for their children and weeks of heavy errands becoming less stressful. After all, everyone gets an extra day to make it to the bank before it closes at the late hour of 2 PM!
The employees who were helped out by the four-day week were even more eager to implement it than their companies – almost half of workers who’d settled in to a four-day week said they’d need at least a 25% raise to move to a job that still had a five-day week. That’s a huge number.
As successful as this study was, it could have shown even better results if it were held over a longer period; turnover would have certainly gone down at most of these companies, especially given the number of employees that would require a raise to give their new lifestyle up.
Additionally, we can assume that absenteeism would likely decrease, since burnout would fall and everyone would have more time to do things on their three days off. Managers will have a more consistent roster on their four days, which could result in more productivity than the patchwork group they’d have come in on some of their former five days. Not to mention – happier employees produce better work!
So, should you implement a four-day work week? Probably – but it depends on your customers.
Certain industries don’t have the room to experiment with a different work week due to the people they serve. Healthcare can’t afford much time off with patients filing into hospitals at any minute of every day, so they by-and-large operate by their own rules. Teachers would probably welcome a four-day week, but getting the world’s children on a four-day, ten hour week might require an even bigger revolution.
If you’re a manager, ask yourself whether your clientele would be inconvenienced by a Friday or Monday off. The vast majority of 9-5 occupations, quite frankly, wouldn’t cause a big ripple if they shifted to a four-day week. No small business will shake their fist at the sky because they’re not receiving marketing emails on Fridays anymore.
The fact of the matter is, your employees will probably love a four-day workweek. As long as your customers wouldn’t hate it, consider giving it a go!