May 24, 2021

Is A Four-Day Workweek Right for Your Company?

by Ritu Bhargava in GUC Blog

Spain is testing out a new four-day workweek in an attempt to boost the nation’s productivity. As one of Europe’s leading countries in weekly hours worked, it ranks low for productivity.

Although not the first to do so, it is undoubtedly the most extensive trial of its kind. The government has agreed to subsidize a three-year test project for companies that want to take part, which would reduce any risk to the employer, with no job or salary loss to employees.

Benefits for Your Employees

Other countries have shown great success with similar work initiatives, with increased productivity widely touted. But increased productivity isn’t the only benefit they’ve noted. Reductions in employee stress has directly improved mental health levels. And as I always say, happy employees equal happy Clients.

Further, a shorter work week can reduce the gender gap. The UK recently showed that out of two million unemployed workers, 89% were women taking care of children. Fewer hours spent at the workplace reduces childcare needs, freeing up time for the family.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is looking for ways to boost the country’s hard-hit tourist economy and has suggested switching to a four-day workweek. It would provide employees longer weekends to visit spots most reliant on tourism, thus boosting the economy from within.

The Impact on Employers

For several years now, individual businesses worldwide have been testing the effectiveness of a four-day workweek with great success. Microsoft Japan rolled out its “Work-Life Choice Challenge” in August 2019 and found a 40% increase in productivity from August 2018. Their trial consisted of closing the office down every Friday and giving paid leave to full-time employees. They also encouraged remote communication and placed a 30-minute cap on meetings to reduce unproductive time.

Microsoft also reported direct savings from the reduced workweek, with a 23% savings in electrical costs and a nearly 60% reduction in printed pages, which is good for the environment. With one less commute, 20% of cars could be removed from roadways, reducing pollution and wear and tear on infrastructure.

Besides productivity, companies such as New Zealand-based Perpetual Guardian, which have switched to a permanent four-day workweek, report an increase in employee happiness and engagement while seeing decreased mental health issues and stress. Their focus has changed from hours worked to output, with employees as stakeholders in their success.

How the Numbers Compare

In the US, companies have been slow to adopt the idea, having been married to the same five-day, 40-hour workweek for nearly a century. Our work habits more closely relate to the 19th century than they do to the 21st century, despite 80% of employees surveyed in 2019 saying they would be more loyal to a company if they provided a flexible schedule. And 74% said they consider work-life balance a key factor when considering a job.

Only 15% of US companies opt for a four-day workweek, varying between models. While some companies increase the hours in the office to ten-hour shifts, others have kept the same eight-hour days, choosing to simply remove one day. Some customer-service-based companies have chosen a rotating calendar with various employees take Friday off and others taking Monday off. This method allows the office to be staffed, and customer calls taken as usual.

How to Make the Switch to a Four-Day Workweek

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when switching to a four-day workweek. Partnering with a consulting firm could help you analyze your goals, provide customized feedback to help you reach those goals, and determine the applicable KPIs to analyze your success.

Employee management software is another customizable tool that could prove helpful in implementing change in your company by helping you turn productivity and attendance data into insight. Automated reporting can quickly and easily analyze metrics of success or concern. Either way, you’ll know if you are on track or need to make some course corrections to get there.

Ultimately, the decision should be based on your company’s goals; what are you trying to achieve? When that vital question is answered, you’ll be able to decide if making the switch is right for you.

Written by Co-founder and COO Gita Bhargava