Business Leaders Argue Pros And Cons Of A 4-Day Workweek

Business Leaders Argue Pros And Cons Of A 4-Day Workweek

On Monday June 6th, the United Kingdom launched the largest 4-day workweek pilot the world has ever seen including more than 3,300 workers and 70 British companies. All eyes are on the UK to see if a similar model is possible and supported in the United States. Hopes in this country are running high. A study by Eagle Hill Consulting found that 83% of respondents said a four-day workweek would alleviate burnout. And according to a Joblist survey, a four day workweek is what 94% of job seekers are looking for in the American workforce. Key findings from the study showed:

  • Most employees (51%) said that they can do their job to the fullest extent in 40 hours or less
  • 85% of respondents said a 4-day workweek is logistically possible for them
  • 94% said a 4-day workweek would be a benefit they would enjoy
  • 28% of full-time employees would accept a pay cut in exchange for a 4-day workweek

Many workers believe a four-day work week—already implemented by Kickstarter and Microsoft—creates greater structure around work and adds a free weekday to relax and handle life matters. Co-founder and CEO of MonographRobert Yuen believes hands-down employees need more time, which is why his company operates on a four-day workweek schedule. “A four-day workweek gives employees the space to take care of themselves, providing them space for personal development,” he said. “Since this tech startup launched a four-day workweek in 2019, employee satisfaction has reached an all-time high.”

While the concept of a 4-day workweek itself is not new, very few large-scale trials have occurred to measure its success. After surveying employees on their most-wanted workplace incentives near the end of 2021, the leadership team at Formstack discovered that an abbreviated workweek ranked high on the list for a majority of over 230 employees. Seeing this as an easy-to-implement initiative, they conducted a 12-week experiment in the fourth quarter of 2021 to gauge employee reception of a 4.5-day workweek. While the company saw benefits like an increase in productivity and flexibility among employees, it also saw downsides like an increase in stress levels. Reducing the 5-day workweek is an intricate concept and Formstack uncovered valuable employee data during its trial that ultimately led to the decision to abandon the idea. They conducted an survey with over 200 employee internal pre- and post-trial respondents to measure effectiveness, inquiring about factors like productivity and stress levels, flexibility and overall happiness.

Advantages Of A Four-Day Workweek

According to Tammy Polk, chief human resources officer at Formstack, at the end of the trial the data showed employees overall saw an increase in flexibility (16%), productivity (13%) and happiness (14%). When measured by job description, people managers in particular saw a more significant increase in productivity and happiness than individual contributors.

Overall, we saw an organization-wide boost in productivity during the 4.5-day workweek trial,” Polk said. “It was truly a win-win situation as output increased and employees had more flexibility with their work-life balance. Employees also enjoyed sharing how they spent their half days on Slack and social media, which strengthened our remote company culture even further.”

Disadvantages Of A Four-Day Workweek

Despite the positive feedback, further data points raised questions. Employees reported a 27% increase in stress levels during the 4.5-day workweek trial—a surprising outlier when paired with the increases in flexibility, productivity and happiness. “How could stress levels increase alongside happiness and flexibility?” Polk asked. “After speaking with employees to gain a better understanding, we realized that added stress can happen with any type of change in the workplace, whether positive or negative. In the case of our abbreviated workweek, employees had concerns about the same amount of work within a shorter time frame. However, many employees learned to adjust their time management and felt that stress began to ease as the trial progressed.”

Adjustments To The 4-Day Workweek

When the trial period came to an end, Formstack’s office hours were adjusted based on its success. The staff is no longer required to attend meetings or complete requests after 12:00 pm on Fridays. “This structure encourages employees to manage their time more autonomously and allows the flexibility of an abbreviated workweek if they so choose,” Polk concluded.

Shane Metcalf, chief culture officer at 15Five suggests other alternatives to the 4-day workweek. “No Meeting Thursdays,” he says, creates a much-needed break from Zoom fatigue and allows employees to set aside blocks of time for deep work to cross things off their lists and feel some breathing room. He also recommends a six-to-eight week sabbatical program for tenured employees to work on a passion project and get distance from day-to-day work patterns. Not only can they grow and attained personal fulfillment, he explained, but they are likely to return to work with renewed zeal and refreshed creativity. His idea of ​​“Best-Self Time Fridays” is designed to support employees in their personal development practices; it’s ongoing and dedicated self-care/self-growth/recharge time intended to leave people even more creative, more productive and more motivated to serve customers and community.

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