The 4-Day Workweek: What’s the Debate?

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Evelyn LongEditor-in-Chief at Renovated

Friday, January 7, 2022

Glowing reviews, case studies and success stories worldwide have raised an important question - is it time we took on the four-day work week?

Article 6 Minutes
The 4-Day Workweek: What’s the Debate?

Achieving a healthy work-life balance is something every employee and company wants to prioritize. With an unprecedented number of people working remotely, it shouldn't come as a surprise that a four-day workweek is becoming a hot topic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on the issue of burnout, which many employees are experiencing during this tumultuous time. Some organizations are thinking about implementing a four-day workweek to try and alleviate employee burnout and work-related stress. However, there are both critics and advocates for this idea.

Certain industries may benefit from a shorter workweek while others may struggle to maintain their profitability. In Europe, it's becoming more common for companies to issue four-day workweeks for various reasons. But will it ever see the same traction in the United States?

Below is more information about the current debate over transitioning to a four-day workweek. This article will discuss why it's a topic of discussion, some of the advantages and disadvantages, and the likelihood that companies will make the switch.

Why a four-day workweek?

The concept of cutting the workweek back to 32 hours is controversial. There's no doubt that the pandemic forced companies to reflect on their employees' performances and think about the conditions they're working under.

For example, as mentioned above, many people had to work from home during pandemic lockdowns. With extra time at home, some employees realized that they're still just as productive as they used to be in the traditional office environment, if not even more so.

Additionally, there are some benefits to reap when less time is spent working — more time spent with family, feeling more relaxed and achieving that balance every employee wants.

Research from one study in Iceland shows that worker well-being dramatically increased, and productivity and service quality remained the same or improved across many organizations included in the study.

Pros and cons of a 4-day workweek

Below are some of the pros and cons of a four-day workweek that companies looking for a change must consider.

Pros

  • Higher productivity: To make up for the lost day, employees tend to be more productive when they’re in the office
  • More efficient time usage: Employees are less likely to engage in unproductive tasks like social media or checking emails
  • Lower unemployment rates: Companies can fill open positions with multiple workers that usually require one employee
  • Employee satisfaction: Less stress, finding the right work-life balance, and increased engagement and motivation contribute to employee satisfaction
  • Fewer overhead costs: A day out of the office translates to lower operational costs for real estate, meaning office maintenance fees like electricity and water would decrease
  • Team building: Team goals are more focused because efficiency during a four-day workweek is key
  • Environmental benefits: Fewer people commuting to work can reduce individuals' carbon footprints
  • Innovations for productivity: With less time to work, employees will find productivity hacks to work more efficiently

Cons

  • Not all industries can participate: Some industries need the extra day to accomplish their tasks and meet customer and client needs and expectations. It may be impractical to adopt a four-day workweek for some sectors.
  • Risk is expensive: A shorter workweek may be too costly to uphold, especially for smaller businesses
  • Workers put in the same hours: Paying employees for potential overtime on top of losing a day of the week may also be too costly for some organizations
  • Could be un-utilized labor: In New Zealand, some employees wanted to work more hours after the switch, but not every workplace may allow this

Weighing both sides of the argument is essential for policymakers and leaders of different industries, as well as C-suite executives.

Each company operates differently, and some of the pros and cons may not apply to every type of organization out there. However, employees and employers must know why there's such a strong debate over the four-day workweek.

Generally speaking, if the goal is to make the workplace more engaging and productive, a four-day workweek may not be enough. Workplace culture itself can play a significant role in employee satisfaction. Surprisingly, eight out of 10 workers do not feel engaged with their work or feel actively disengaged from their job.

While transitioning to a four-day workweek could potentially resolve this problem many companies are facing, more emphasis should be placed on creating positive work environments and experiences for employees.

If employers find new ways to engage their employees, they may not need to shorten the workweek. Employees may avoid that feeling of wanting to escape work when they come into the office every day.

Do employees want a 4-day workweek?

Speaking of employees, do most Americans want to work a four-day workweek? The appeal of a flexible work week schedule is something that many people are looking for in their job. This desire is already evident in a growing preference for hybrid work options, which help employees determine a balance between on-location engagement and personal time and responsibilities.

Research shows that 74% of workers say that achieving a work-life balance is a top factor when evaluating a job and what it offers. Additionally, one survey found that out of 4,000 full-time workers, 83% said they'd prefer working a four-day workweek instead of the traditional five-day workweek.

While this may be an ongoing debate, it's clear there are benefits to reap when companies transition to a four-day workweek. But there are many factors they must consider before implementing this type of change.

The U.S government also has a hand in this four-day workweek debate. The Congressional Progressive Caucus backed a bill introduced by Rep. Mark Takano, D-California, which seeks to implement a four-day workweek. While the bill itself isn’t realistically going to become law any time soon, it’s certainly an indication of growing interest in professional circles. The future remains uncertain, but it'll be interesting to see how the four-day workweek could become the new normal workplaces will need to adapt to.

Final verdict: Should businesses implement a 4-day workweek?

It's important to note that not every business can implement a four-day workweek, but it's certainly worth exploring for more flexible company structures with a high amount of knowledge workers. Companies can consider experimenting with a hybrid workplace, a popular trend during the pandemic.

Additionally, organizations across various sectors can run trials within the office and see the results for themselves. It may be a suitable option if they find that no productivity is lost, costs remain consistent, and the work is getting done.

Evelyn Long

Editor-in-Chief at Renovated

https://renovated.com/

Evelyn is the editor-in-chief of Renovated, a web magazine for the home industry. Her work has been published by the National Association of REALTORS®, NCCER and other prominent industry resources.

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